suit to stop Detroit homeless HIV+ shelter filed by Shriners FWD

Tom Boland (
Sun, 15 Feb 1998 14:31:32 -0800 (PST)

FWD from The Detroit News  Feb 14, 1998


The Masonic Temple Association says a proposal to put a shelter for
homeless AIDS sufferers near its landmark building could drive it out of
the city.

A suit naming the city and the Cass Corridor Neighborhood Development Corp.
was filed Thursday in Wayne County Circuit Court. It claims the planned
shelter in the impoverished neighborhood could push the Shriners out to the
suburbs. The suit contends the housing project would damage the temple's
ability to attract theatergoers and would alienate other patrons who use
the building for corporate meetings, weddings or banquets.

The Masonic building is used for shows. In recent years, "The Phantom of
the Opera" and "Miss Saigon" played for 13 weeks each, drawing 24,000
playgoers a week.

"We're not against providing aid to the homeless, nor to the HIV patient,"
Gilbert Rice, general manager of the Masonic Temple, said. But he said the
proposed shelter is an improper use of the building and will add to other
area magnets for the down-and-out.

The City Council voted last month to sell Temple Towers, a former public
housing project across the street from the Masonic Temple's box office, to
the Cass Corridor neighborhood corporation for $1.
The group plans to rehabilitate the building for AIDS patients and people
infected with the lethal virus. Its sales agreement with the city gives it
three years to begin rebuilding.

The lawsuit says that means that Temple Towers, abandoned by the city in
1990, will be a nuisance for at least three more years. "Temple Towers is
regularly used as a haven for drug dealing, prostitution and other criminal
activity," the suit claims. "Masonic Temple patrons have been assaulted by
persons using Temple Towers as a hiding place."

The suit argues the sales agreement should not go through because the
development corporation owes back taxes to the city; a shelter for people
with AIDS is not allowed under the current zoning; and the city failed to
give the Masonic Temple an opportunity to challenge the plans.

According to the suit, the Michigan Shriners, the largest Masonic order,
have indicated they will move out of the temple to suburban headquarters if
the Temple Towers nuisance is not resolved. Because the Shriners provide
about a third of the revenues, the suit said, the temple cannot survive the
loss of that revenue and would probably have to close its doors.

A hearing on the temple's request for a preliminary injunction to stop the
sale was scheduled for Feb. 20 before Wayne County Circuit Judge Robert
Colombo Jr.


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