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Strong hall association

Optimize your real estate assets

Your May checklist

For your Trestleboard

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Question of the month


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Strong hall association

Managing a Masonic hall can be a complicated matter, requiring knowledge of leasing, property management, construction, and the CMC, to name a few skillsets. Luckily for Hollywood Lodge No. 355 in Tarzana, Scott Thomas came to with the lodge with more than 30 years experience in commercial real estate. Thomas took over as president of the lodge’s Canoga Park Building Association about five years ago, and today relies on the daily assistance of Walter McClain, who oversees banquet hall rentals and is the building superintendent.

In the past five years, the hall’s income has increased substantially, and the building is looking better than ever. A number of remaining capital expenditures are scheduled for the next two years.

Thomas shares a few other tips:

Tenant leases
We have a two-story building, which includes office space for 12 tenants. We’re almost always 100 percent leased.

  • Standardized leases: Using boilerplate forms purchased inexpensively from the AIR Commercial Real Estate Association, we updated leases to make them all consistent. Once you’re familiar with the terms of the lease, you’ll be more familiar with your respective rights. Also, if we need to make a change, we can send a notice that refers all tenants to the same paragraph.
  • Move-in ready: When a unit becomes available, we immediately make cosmetic improvements before showing it, including new carpeting, fresh paint, etc. Potential renters can better visualize the space, which helps us obtain higher rates.
  • Track insurance: We keep track of when each tenant’s insurance renews, so we can ensure they’ve named our board and our lodge as an additional insured.
  • Documentation: We take photos of every check, front and back, as a record of when it was received and deposited.

Banquet hall
We used to rent the banquet hall for a nominal fee, and we did not require event insurance. Today, we insisted that all events are fully insured – and we’ve quadrupled our rate to keep up with the current market.

  • Research rate: We surveyed all the local banquet hall facilities to get a sense of our comparative strengths and weaknesses, and adjusted our rate to be competitive.
  • Client insurance: We now require clients to hire security officers and to purchase a one-day insurance policy for their event. If they are serving alcohol, we require a second policy. These liabilities now run on their insurance, not ours.
  • Due diligence: The city’s records hadn’t been updated from 25 years ago, when the banquet hall was a restaurant, so the lodge had to obtain a new conditional use permit – a lengthy and costly process, but necessary.
  • Note: The Member Center offers a template hall association use and event agreement form.

Building improvements
With new income, we’ve made important renovations, from repaving the parking lot to replacing the banquet hall floor.

  • Plan ahead: Any project more than $25,000 requires Grand Lodge approval. We’re about to submit a proposal for a capital improvements budget to cover improvements including a keycard system for locks, painting the building exterior, and a new lodge floor.
  • Handyman rates: We save money by employing a handyman (who happens to be a Mason). As an employee rather than a contractor, his hourly rate is much less.
  • Contractor coverage: We never hire a contractor who can’t prove that he or she is licensed, bonded, and insured. It’s not worth ever taking those kinds of risks. We also insist that they do not do any work without first naming us as an additional insured.

Board meetings
Because we have so much on our plate, we currently hold a board meeting every month. Eventually, we’ll go to every other month.

  • Advance preparation: A week before the meeting, I share the monthly financial report with the board, including bank statements, check copies, and expense breakdowns, plus any updates or handouts on ongoing business to be discussed at the meeting. Everyone has a chance to review it and prepare questions.
  • Follow an agenda: We keep phones and computers off during meetings. We start with reading the previous minutes, then the treasurer’s report, then old business, and finally new business. We refer to a printed agenda with all business organized into categories, including the point person, assignment dates, and updates.
  • Set deadlines: We’ve agreed on a 10-day turnaround between a business item being assigned and the point person getting back to me with an initial progress report. This way, we can include updates in the next meeting’s agenda, and business keeps moving.

Closing advice

  • Make it mandatory that all of your board members take the Lodge Management Certification Program for hall associations. This course provides essential information and helps everyone get on the same page.
  • If there’s no one in your lodge with a real estate or management background, consider hiring a property management company who specializes in your property type.
  • Make sure you contract for all of your preventative maintenance concerns, including HVAC filter changes, keeping roof and underground drains cleaned and unplugged, elevator services, pest control, janitorial supplies, etc. It’s money well spent.
  • Keep your tenants happy. Be responsive to their needs.

We try to be good Masons, and take care of our building in a way that reflects our commitment to the fraternity. You have to have a love for Masonry, your brothers, and the house you all live in.

J. Scott Thomas
The Boulevard Masonic Center
19626 Ventura Blvd. Suite #103
Tarzana, CA 91356

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Optimize your real estate assets

A priority of the 2020 Fraternity Plan is to nurture strong lodges and halls. Every hall association should consider whether it is using real estate assets strategically, and where to turn for help.

Here’s advice from Burt Hirschfeld, Grand Lodge’s director of real estate.

Asset management

  • View the hall as an asset. Hall space generally sits idle during business hours, and as much as 90 percent of weeknights and weekends. Through leasing and rentals, that time can be leveraged into income. (Consider adding retail tenants to storefront space or renting the hall to other lodges, concordant bodies, schools, churches, and community groups.)
  • Caterers and cooking schools are natural tenants for halls with larger kitchens.
  • For limited, periodic rentals – ex. focus groups, dance classes, off-site training, and parties – contact your local chamber of commerce to get the word out on your space availability. Peerspace is a great website geared specifically to listing and renting space on an hourly or daily basis.
  • For leases of one year or longer, a good commercial broker can provide market intelligence, help you negotiate transactions, and most importantly, save you time.
  • Optimizing value also means managing expenditures. Preventive maintenance helps stave off expensive deferred maintenance down the road. Energy efficiency (think solar panels and motion detectors) helps reduce utility bills today. These expenses become more apparent as tenants and renters place greater demands on your hall.

Consulting services and resources

  • Call me to discuss your objectives and get advice – the earlier, the better.
  • I’m here to offer input and suggestions for any phase of the real estate process: considering an acquisition, positioning a property for lease or sale, negotiating a letter of intent, preparing an application for the Masonic Properties Committee, and much more.
  • Many halls are fortunate to have their own experts in the field – brothers who are brokers, appraisers, and architects, for example. Even if you do not require advice, I’m available as another set of eyes on any issue or approach.

Information on these and other real estate services is listed on the Lodge Services page of, along with links to template leases. Additional resources are being developed for hall association use. Stay tuned!

Contact: Director of Real Estate Burt Hirschfeld, (415) 292-9111

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Your May checklist

Stay on track of lodge business and prepare for important deadlines. Here’s your May checklist:

Executive Committee

  • Last chance to attend the 2017 Master & Wardens Retreat
  • Begin tracking 100% officer giving to the Annual Fund, with officers setting an example through gifts that represent their gift capability as well as their commitment to our charitable programs

Senior Warden, along with Executive Committee

  • Identify and approach members for 2018 open elected and appointed officer positions
  • Identify and approach members for the 2018 Audit, Membership Retention, and any other committees
  • Continue preparing 2018 budget
  • Set installation date and approach installing officer, master of ceremonies, and chaplain
  • Review all candidates’ progress toward advancement


  • Send list of members with late dues to the Retention Committee
  • Send any suspension notices via certified mail
  • Send list of members with late dues to the master for the Retention Committee
  • Provide necessary information so Charity Committee can consider remissions
  • Begin reviewing roster for accuracy in preparation for the end of the Grand Lodge membership year, June 30


  • By May 15, submit IRS form 990 and FTB form 199 (unless your lodge has previously agreed to have Grand Lodge prepare these forms)

Audit Committee

  • Audit lodge books, to be completed by end of month

Hall Association

  • By May 15, submit IRS form 990 and FTB form 199
  • By May 15, submit form 200 to Grand Lodge
  • Pay insurance premium

Questions? Contact Member Services at or (415) 776-7000.

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For your Trestleboard

Through the Lodge Outreach Program, brothers help fellow fraternal family members, thanks to trainings, resources, and support from Masonic Outreach Services. Use this story to inspire your lodge, plus additional reminders from the fraternity.

This month:
Lodge Outreach Program
Symposium: The Moscow Archives
Age Successfully at Acacia Creek

Share in your Trestleboard.

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Find it on

Lodge halls are important assets, and navigating real estate decisions can be tough.

Grand Lodge real estate services can help. Call (415) 292-9111 for:

  • Technical expertise and counsel to hall association trustees for the lease, purchase, sale, and improvement of their buildings; suggestions for negotiating transactions and structuring agreements
  • Strategic advice to leverage the asset value of hall properties
  • Help developing applications for the Grand Lodge Masonic Properties Committee
  • Input on capital improvement and building operations issues, such as reserve funding, solar projects, etc.
  • Cost-benefit analyses of real estate projects
  • Replacement cost estimates to determine appropriate coverage against property losses

*New resources are available on, from applications to use agreements. Log into the Member Center, and select Forms, then Hall Associations.

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Question of the month

Last month we asked how your lodge stores and organizes important documents. Of those that responded:

76% - Hard copy files
43% - The Vault
37% - Disc and/or drive storage of digital files
24% - Cloud storage (ex. Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive)
7% - Iron Mountain storage
4% - Other
4% - Don't know

About 22 percent said their lodge has already digitized the majority of its important documents.

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Grand Lodge of California
1111 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

p: (415) 776-7000