Northern Exposure

In Vancouver, A Rebirth for Two Historic Masonic Properties

Two Masonic lodge buildings have been redeveloped as mixed-use spaces. Is that the future of Masonic lodge development?

By Wes Regan

The real estate market there is white-hot, a result of the tech boom and a housing crunch causing record unaffordability up and down the West Coast. At the same time, it’s home to some of the most historic Masonic temples in existence, many of them dating to the mid-19th century, and now serving a membership that’s a fraction of the size it was just a few decades ago. 

Sound familiar? That might well describe the scene in San Francisco or Los Angeles—but it’s also the case in Vancouver, where the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon recently pulled off a generational gambit: transforming two of that fraternity’s most valuable physical assets into state-of-the-art, mixed-use spaces. The result is a novel partnership that provides a physical presence for Masonry in the region and will help ensure financial sustainability in the century ahead. And, given the similarity of the real estate climate in the Golden State, it’s a development plan that may point the way for California Masonry. 

With a population of more than 2.5 million, Vancouver’s is one of the largest metro areas in Canada, about half the size of the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s also among the least affordable cities in the world. For many lodges in the region, the simple task of maintaining aging buildings was proving difficult, as property taxes and maintenance costs outpaced revenues provided by member dues. (The Grand Lodge of British Columbia and the Yukon’s membership is a quarter the size it was 50 years ago—similar to the membership drop experienced over that time in California and elsewhere.) 

Rather than simply cash out their halls, the oldest of which dates to 1869, Vancouver Masons set about redeveloping two of them through a pair of novel public-private partnerships. 

Apartment View at the Beverly
A view inside an apartment at the Beverly, the 150-unit building next to the cira-1911 Freemasons' Hall.

While the financial path forward was different for each, the results were similar. The first building to go under the knife was a 1911 heritage temple in New Westminster known as Freemasons’ Hall. Beginning in 2012, the Masons partnered with architectural firm IDS Group and BC Housing, the government housing authority, to redevelop the property. In addition to building a new 9,000-square-foot, four-story Masonic hall, developers raised an adjoining 19-story, 150-unit residential tower known as the Beverley. The two spaces opened in 2020. Today six lodges, including one named Legacy, which will be formally constituted in March, meet in the redeveloped lodge hall, and the fraternity retains full ownership of the lodge room and banquet facility, debt-free. 

The Beverly, a 19-story residential tower, rises above the redeveloped Freemasons’ Hall in Vancouver.

A Masonic Lodge Redevelopment

Meanwhile, in spring 2022, the circa-1974 Vancouver Masonic Centre, located in South Granville, reopened as a modern four-story structure that includes a ground-floor café, 300-person ballroom and event space, and large covered rooftop patio. The reborn VMC also includes lodge rooms, meeting spaces, and offices. Meanwhile, developers constructed an adjacent 18-story residential tower on the property, providing 159 market- and below-market-rate units, the latter managed through BC Housing. 

While Freemasons’ Hall retains its original neoclassical façade, the newly built VMC incorporates Masonic symbolism throughout the property. From the pillars representing the orders of classical architecture standing sentry at the south entrance, to the number of steps leading up from the foyer, to the golden ratio applied to its exterior proportions, Masonic references hide everywhere in plain sight. Designed by Shape Architects, the building benefitted from the input of renowned architectural historian Frank Albo; in contrast to the minimalist concrete building it replaces, the theme of the new structure is illumination. Tall, sweeping windows invite light into the spacious, vaulted-ceiling rooms, bringing marble floors and brass detailing to shimmering life. The result is in keeping with the modern city around it, while at the same time feeling inviting to the general public.

Vancouver Masonic Centre Meeting Space
A light-filled meeting area inside the VMC event space.

That’s fitting, given that the VMC is home to the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon’s staff offices, library, and archives. Meanwhile, the building also houses Vancouver’s most exciting new banquet and events space, named Arras, with a fifth-floor view that takes in the iconic English Bay, the city’s skyline, and the snow-capped North Shore Mountains beyond.

For more information, visit or 

The new facade of the Vancouver Masonic Centre

Courtesy of IDS Group
Ema Peter Photography, courtesy of Shape Architecture

More from this issue: