Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Zembo Shrine sold to out-of-state buyer with entertainment plans.

Zembo Shrine.

The historic Zembo Mosque and Shrine is set to sell after almost one year on the market, according to a city spokesperson.

The 65,000-square-foot property at Division and N. 3rd streets will be sold to Arkansas-based TempleLive LLC, which plans to operate the building as a meeting, gathering and performing arts venue, city communications director Joyce Davis confirmed on Monday.

“The goal is to make it a more culturally active space,” Davis said on Monday.

TempleLive currently owns two Masonic temples similar to Zembo, one in Cleveland and one in Fort Smith, Ark. They run both properties as a multi-purpose event spaces, according to the venues’ websites.

Mike Brown, vice president of acquisitions for Beaty Capital Group, TempleLive’s parent company, expects the sale to close at the end of March or beginning of April. He hopes the site will be operational by the fall.

“The sooner, the better,” Brown said.

Brown said it was too early to tell if the building would require extensive renovations, but he did say that the shrine’s main auditorium would need air conditioning. He claimed that TempleLive representatives visited the site three or four times before entering the sale agreement.

Brown declined to disclose the final sale price and did not know if the buyers would take advantage of a tax abatement.

The Zembo shrine went on the market in February 2017 with a $950,000 asking price. Davis could not confirm the property’s final sale price, which was reportedly reached at a special meeting on Jan. 11.

The deal was brokered by the Bill Gladstone Group of NAI CIR, a commercial real estate agency in Lemoyne, and includes 396 parking spaces adjacent to the building.

Since its opening, Zembo has been home to the Shriners, a fraternal organization affiliated with the Free Masons. The Shriners continue to meet there today, but the group’s declining membership, coupled with the building’s high operating costs, forced them to sell the historic property.

Zembo was constructed in 1930 in a Moorish Revival architectural style. The 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.

The building faces Italian Lake and former William Penn High School. That vacant campus is also currently for sale.

In a statement issued on Monday, Mayor Eric Papenfuse praised the sale of the historic Zembo building and the plans to make it a touristic attraction within the city.

“This is a truly wonderful development for our city,” Papenfuse said.

This article was updated to include comments from Mike Brown.

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