The historic Prince Hall Masonic Lodge building has been granted $1.5 million from the Eastside Tax Allocation District (TAD) Community Empowerment Fund to finance its preservation and create space for small businesses.
The building, located at the corner of Auburn Avenue and Hilliard Street, was built in 1937 as a meeting and community space for the fraternal order. Through the years, it has housed several historical organizations, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s personal Southern Christian Leadership Conference office, WERD Radio Station and Madame C.J. Walker Beauty School.
The building will be renovated into approximately 16,000 square feet of multi-use space. Once completed, the basement and first floor will be leased and operated by the National Park Service as an educational and interpretive exhibit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s office, while the second floor and Hilliard Street storefronts will be operated by local businesses. The current owner will continue to maintain a portion of the second floor and all of the third floor for organizational activities.
According to Ashley Jones, assistant director of Commercial Development for Invest Atlanta, the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge building is situated among a promising cluster of businesses and will preserve Sweet Auburn's cultural legacy. “It really shows the improvement, change and direction of this district,” said Jones. “Other benefits include a close proximity to the Atlanta Streetcar and bus line, the reactivation of a historic building in this corridor and the ability to provide space to small businesses and nonprofits.”
“I think all great cities respect and preserve their past,” said Invest Atlanta Board Member Bill Bozarth. “That’s what we’re doing here, and I think it’s commendable for us to be part of any opportunity we have.”
Invest Atlanta Board Member Fred Smith agreed, saying: “On a monthly basis, we are investing in Sweet Auburn – a site that is critical to our collective memory and also our imagination when it comes to our basic identity as a city.”