Officials in Floral Park are considering “several significant offers” to buy Centennial Hall, one of the village’s most iconic buildings.
Village Administrator Gerard Bambrick said last week that officials have no deadline for selecting a buyer and that residents will get a chance to see details of the proposed plans in coming weeks. He wouldn’t specify how many offers are on the table but said there are fewer than a dozen.
“We’re making this a transparent process and trying to really address as many of the public’s wishes for the property as possible,” Bambrick said.
Whoever buys Centennial Hall will be its third owner. The 8,500-square-foot, four-columned Greek Revival building on Tulip Avenue was built in 1925 and has been used primarily as a Masonic temple.
William J. Corbett, a former associate village justice and current Floral Park Mason, said the building was “a real hub of activity” that once held school dance recitals, Republican group meetings and wedding receptions.
“We used to meet there, and 15 other Masonic lodges met there almost every night of the month — or an Eastern Star group or an affiliated group,” he said. “It was leased out to people when they had parties on Saturday nights.”
Corbett said that at one point the building’s annual taxes exceeded $70,000 and the Masons couldn’t afford to pay them. In 2004 Floral Park Lodge No. 1016 Free and Accepted Masons sold the building to the village for $1.5 million, said Ann Corbett, who is married to William J. Corbett and was mayor at the time of the sale.
Floral Park officials envisioned using Centennial Hall as a new library location, Bambrick said. “But it never reached the real potential we had hoped for,” he said.
Village officials instead used the space to house the Floral Park Historical Society between 2005 and 2015. In that decade village officials noticed the building’s deterioration, and in fall 2014 they began seriously discussing Centennial Hall’s future.
The initial plan was to renovate the building, but after receiving estimates on the cost, officials decided that a makeover “just wasn’t feasible,” Bambrick said. The village hired commercial Realtor CB Richard Ellis last March to sell the property.
The village also held community meetings to get the public’s feedback on how to best use Centennial Hall, Bambrick said. The consensus during those meetings was that residents wanted to maintain the building’s facade and make sure it remained accessible to community groups.
Jay Gelbtuch, an associate at CB Richard Ellis, said every potential buyer has agreed to keep the facade.
Ultimately, selling Centennial Hall will benefit the village, its residents and especially the new owner, Gelbtuch said.
“It gives the opportunity to maintain a piece of history, but also to add value and create an income stream,” he said. “It’s considered the gateway to Floral Park, and it has a grand appearance and Old World charm.”