The message on the Dallas Brooks Centre (DBC) by our Grand Master on You Tube has been well received by the many freemasons that have spoken to me about the presentation. I think that it can be safely assumed that the planning he refers to includes the Victoria Parade car park. He informs us that the present services will remain unchanged for three years and that there will be a continued presence on the site. This provides confidence and certainty. He recognises that the present building no longer meets our operational and strategic needs and consideration is being given to its sale, renovation and development with a third party. (For those reading this on-line place the curser on the link then press Control + Click to open.
Most Freemasons feel that they have an interest in DBC. Not only does the DBC provide a unique venue for many important masonic occasions but it also symbolises by its site and structure the status that Freemasonry should have in Victoria. It is a premium site, with frontages on the grand boulevard of Victoria Parade, with its tram service to the centre of Melbourne, and the expansive Fitzroy Gardens. I cannot recall any other public building in Melbourne having a better site except perhaps Government House and St Patrick’s Cathedral and I am sure that neither of those are about to be sold or developed. That alone should preclude the sale option and any loss of any title in a development with a third party that will inhibit our enjoyment of ownership.
It is pertinent to recall the Freemasons' Hall in central London, the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England and a meeting place for the Masonic Lodges in the London area, has been a Masonic meeting place since 1775. There have been three Masonic buildings on the site, with the current one opening in 1933. A DBC on site car park would be very desirable but many public buildings do not have such a facility. It seems that the only reasons to enter into a third party development arrangement would be the provision of an on-site car park and to get a higher a higher return on investment for both sites without detriment to our own operations and future options if sufficient funds are not available. Such an arrangement should only be in the form of a development lease. Dealing with persuasive, hardnosed developers can be very difficult – it is easy to be “conned”. Don’t rely upon a developer’s planning and commercial advice as it will be biased and be careful what you sign.
Melbourne’s growth areas are Casey-Cardinia, Hume, Melton, Mitchell, Whittlesea and Wyndham and because of the wide spread of the city provision should be made for regional Masonic Centres in each growth corridor. (Information can be viewed by clicking here ). We should do as our predecessors and provide for future generations rather than just out present aging membership. A strategic vision and confidence is needed in planning with a horizon of at least 100 years. Only last week the greater Melbourne area has been redefined for when it be a city of an estimated 4.5m people, to include all of the Mornington Peninsular and taking it beyond Melton, Lancefield and Kinglake. We could and should have at least 30,000 freemasons at that time. I am confident that the likes of Woolworths, Bunnings and Coles are planning along these lines.
The Grand Master’s message seems to signal, hopefully, that there will be a consensus management approach to the development of both the DBC and the car park. If this is so, it is important to promulgate the process that will be adopted for planning and approval. Let there be transparency and no surprises and enjoy the goodwill of all Freemasons. I am sure that when King Solomon chose the Temple Mount for the construction of his Temple he would have had the wisdom to consult and been aware of its significance for centuries as place of worship and possible once known as Mount Moriah or Mount Zion of biblical note. (Isa 8:178)