Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Zembo Shrine for sale once more after buyer exits deal.

Harrisburg’s historic Zembo Shrine is back on the market after a contract with a potential buyer fell through.

Earlier this year, Harrisburg officials announced that Beaty Capital Group, an Arkansas-based development firm, would buy the Zembo Shrine almost a year after the property went up for sale.

But Mike Brown, Beaty’s vice president of acquisitions, confirmed today that the deal is no longer under contract.

“While we remain interested in the property, we were unable to get entirely comfortable with the economics associated with the way that property would integrate into the entertainment market surrounded by the developed markets of Hershey, Baltimore and Philadelphia,” Brown said in an email.

The property is listed for $950,000 by the Bill Gladstone Group at NAI CIR, a commercial real estate firm in Lemoyne.

Through its subsidy TempleLive LLC, Beaty planned to operate the 65,000-square-foot shrine at Division and N. 3rd streets as an entertainment and events venue. The company owns and operates other historic shrines across the country, including ones in Cleveland, Ohio and Fort Smith, Ark., according to its website.

Bill Gladstone said Beaty would have been an ideal buyer for the shrine, but ultimately encountered roadblocks from partners in the entertainment industry.

“They were going to have a tougher time than they anticipated getting the acts they wanted to come to Harrisburg to come here,” Gladstone said.

When the sale was announced, Harrisburg officials were hopeful that new ownership would make the shrine a cultural destination and bring tourism to Harrisburg.

Today, mayor Eric Papenfuse said that city officials are committed to finding a new buyer.

Echoing Brown’s statement, he claimed that the sale to Beaty fell through because of dynamics within the entertainment industry.

“The company remains very bullish on Harrisburg,” Papenfuse said.

Gladstone said he is prepared to aggressively market the property to find a fitting buyer. Given what his firm learned through the ill-fated Beaty deal, he isn’t certain that the property will be developed as an entertainment venue.

The space could be developed as an educational or religious center, Gladstone said, though he “isn’t ruling out” another buyer from the entertainment industry.

Any sale must be authorized by Zembo’s governing board, which is comprised of members of the Shriners, a fraternal organization affiliated with the Free Masons. The Shriners continue to meet at Zembo today, but the group’s declining membership, coupled with the building’s high operating costs, forced them to put the historic property up for sale in 2017.

Built in the 1930s, the Moorish-style building features interior arches, hand-painted motifs, and ornate stone detailing. It houses large meeting rooms and a theater with a 2,500-seat capacity.

Zembo neighbors Italian Lake and the former William Penn High School, which is also currently for sale.


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