From Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady:
For several years the Aberdeen City Council has been trying to make the best of a former Council’s purchase of real estate; specifically in its efforts to find a use and potential purchaser for the former Moose Lodge building.
At the height of the last Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure initiative (BRAC), Aberdeen Proving Ground was earmarked to lose one of Maryland’s largest and most popular tourist attractions, the Army Ordnance Museum. With that in mind, in 2014 the former City Council purchased the Rogers Street based Moose Lodge for $435k.
Despite the deplorable condition of the building, the last Council had hoped to convert it into a museum for some of APG’s collection. After purchasing the building the City paid for a preliminary architectural design, and hired contractors to perform interior demolition and remove a leaking fuel storage tank. All in, approximately another $70k was spent on the Moose Lodge property.
Needless to say, the Army’s and City’s plans didn’t align, and since acquiring the building the City staff and Council have been pursuing ways and options to put the Moose Lodge back into private hands.
The goal, then and now, is to secure a viable business or organization with an achievable long-term vision, solid financial capabilities and a demonstrated track record to purchase the facility, make the necessary improvements that are desperately needed, and successfully open the doors.
Our estimates and those of contractors show from $500k to upwards of $1m will be necessary to remodel the building and improve the grounds. Due to the costs, challenging site location and other concerns, attempts to market the Lodge with organizations like the American Legion, Key Point Health Services and Aberdeen Parks and Recreation were all declined.
In December 2016, the City Council contracted with Aberdeen’s largest regional real estate broker, Mackenzie Retail, LLC to list the property. During the past 12 months Mackenzie received two offers, one from a church and the other a mosque, with neither complying with the City’s existing zoning requirements.
This Fall, two additional offers were received. One for $125k from Boothe Brothers & Associates to convert the facility to a banquet and conference center, and the other, from Mr. Arthur Helton for $50,000 to renovate the property and bring the long established Prost German Restaurant back to Aberdeen.
The City Council carefully weighed each proposal on their own merits and unanimously agreed to accept the proposal from Mr. Helton.
While they acknowledge and recognized the difference in the purchase price, Council determined the long term benefits of having a proven restaurant in downtown Aberdeen would create many new jobs, increase real property taxes and generate “spin off” economic activity across the City. Projections show approximately $700K will be invested in the building, with Prost tentatively opening its doors in the Spring of 2019.
It’s unfortunate the City spent so much on a property that really wasn’t worth it, but that’s hindsight, and hindsight can be perfect. Art Helton has a record of completing projects like this and we believe that it will in short order be not only tax-producing, but a draw to Aberdeen’s Historic downtown.