- March 7, 2018
EAST COUNTY — As Christine DiMarco looks around Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Elks Lodge 2855, she sees a building that has met the organization’s needs.
But down the road, she sees opportunity.
The lodge on Aug. 14 purchased a 8.3-acre vacant lot, just up Lena Road from its current, leased space in Creekwood Commons industrial park, at 4602 Lena Road. The land cost $275,000.
And, now with the sale of its old Sarasota lodge building at 3990 Lockwood Ridge Road for $910,000 Aug. 28, Lodge 2855 can move forward with plans for expansion. Lodge 2855 leased that property while waiting for the real estate market to pick up, after the Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota Elks' organizations merged in late 2010.
“We have conceptual plans, but nothing final,” said DiMarco, the lodge's exalted ruler (president), noting the organization now will select an engineer for site planning, clear the land and hire a contractor. “We plan on moving on it right away. All the members are very excited about our land acquisition and the building of our new permanent home.”
Money from the Sarasota lodge sale will help fund the project, which is expected to cost more than $1 million.
DiMarco said the new lodge is expected to be between 6,000 and 7,000 square feet, about double its existing space, and likely will resemble more traditional Elks’ facilities, with a banquet room, kitchen area and a bar/lounge area with a dance floor, as well as office space for leadership.
The existing lodge has a bar and open area for seating, but does not have its own kitchen or office space, for example.
DiMarco said the lodge needs a new space to accommodate the club's growth. It has climbed to about 500 members since Lodge 2855 received its charter in January 2009.
“Our lodge was ranked No. 3 in the state for membership growth out of 100 lodges,” DiMarco said. “We initiated more than 80 people from April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015. That’s our fiscal year.”
DiMarco expects growth will continue, especially as the lodge continues efforts to attract younger members and develop creative fundraising and entertainment options, such as the murder mystery dinner it hosted in April and the “celebrity” lip-sync show it hosted Aug. 16.
The lodge also plans to host a block party outside its Lena Road facility in January to attract new members.
“We’re trying to do more, creative events to offer more variety,” DiMarco said.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected]