MICHIGAN CITY — A developer plans to redevelop the downtown Moose Lodge into a public entertainment space now that a new South Shore Line train station will be built across the street.
The building at 1108 Franklin St. served as a Moose Lodge for more than 80 years until the Loyal Order of Moose put it on the market in May of 2020.
“It had been on the market for over a year until an investor purchased the building to be adapted for a public food, beverage, entertainment and event space,” said real estate agent Michael Conner with @properties, which represented the buyer.
The new owner, Todd Davis, bought the property for $650,000, Conner said. Davis has a second home in Michigan City, where he has invested in real estate for 10 years.
Plans call for investing $35,000 to $40,000 in an exterior renovation.
“We are looking to land a distillery or brewery for the whole space,” Conner said. “We have lots of interest in event space using the bowling alley for private parties. The concept is to use the very functional retro feel of the building allowing someone to get in with minimal investment.”
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The nonprofit Moose Order has raised money for various causes in Michigan City since the 1920s. Pat Margraf said the charitable social club had 2,800 members in the 1970s but now has about 780 members, both women and men.
It was determined that the 19,000-square-foot building, which was built in 1938 after the original wood-framed building burned down, was too large for the smaller membership. So they decided to sell to capitalize on the stronger demand for Michigan City real estate.
“We decided to purchase the former Traditions Event Center in Trail Creek,” Margraf said. “That was a better fit for us and gave us some great outdoor space to utilize for events. Some of our older members will miss the space because they often harken back to a building buzzing with music and dancing and members that would fill the building. Not to mention a slew of bowling leagues that operated downstairs.”
The new owner plans to find a new use for the building with a new user who can take advantage of the full kitchen, stage, banquet room, two bars and four-lane bowling alley.
“This may be one of the best-kept secrets in all of Michigan City,” Conner said. “I love the retro feel of the space, and that the Moose kept everything as it was 50 years ago. It has that perfect vintage vibe, which seems to be what certain types of venues demand now. The fact that this was a private club is what kept this space as an undiscovered gem.”
The building is posted to benefit from greater traffic and visibility when a new commuter train station is built across the street as part of the South Shore Line double-tracking project.
Plans call for preserving the historic nature of the building and updating the exterior without changing the design.
“The exterior needs to be more inviting, and we are exploring ways to make that happen including painting the exterior,” Conner said. “We would love to pay some sort of homage to the Moose organization so we are looking at ways to do that on the exterior.”
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