VALDOSTA -- One of the few remaining undeveloped sites near I-75 and the mall area, the historic Valdosta Elks Lodge property, is now for sale.

Lodge Exalted Ruler C.A. Miller said the organization is selling the property due to the high cost of maintaining the lodge building, coupled with declining membership. "We are not closing. We're going to relocate but we don't know where yet, although we hope to purchase property within the city limits."

The 20-acre site, accessible from Baytree Road, is located behind Wood Valley subdivision with 1,700 feet of frontage on the interstate. It includes the 17,000 square foot main lodge building, with a large ballroom, several meeting rooms, a full service kitchen, office and social hall. The property also includes an olympic size swimming pool, volleyball court, basketball court, barbecue pits, tennis courts and a lake.

The location of the property has also attracted the attention of the city of Valdosta for a potential frontage road beside the interstate. The road would run through the Elks property and link to Coleman Road as a corridor between North Valdosta Road and the mall area. City Engineer Von Shipman said the Department of Transportation was contacted about a year ago to conduct a study to determine if the project would be feasible.

"We don't know when or if it might be approved," Shipman said. "Even if it is approved, at the earliest it would be five to seven years before it would materialize."

The road would help to alleviate some of the traffic flow problems between the northside and the mall area, but one potential drawback is that a bridge over the Withlacoochee River would have to be built, which Shipman said brings in environmental and financial concerns.

"The Exit 22 area is really growing with the new hospital and Valwood and there is a lot of undeveloped property around there," he said. "If the DOT says no, then the local government will have to decide if it's something they want to do."

The Elks Lodge has owned the property since 1971 and has long been known as a popular site for parties and events. The Elks Club is one of the city's oldest community service organizations.

First Commercial Real Estate of Valdosta is the brokerage company the Elks have hired to find a buyer for the property. The site has many potential uses for commercial and residential development.

"Years ago, we were known for having the best seafood meals anywhere at a price no restaurant could compete with," Miller said. "But with our membership declining and our expenses going up, we have to find something smaller and more efficient."

To contact Business Editor Kay Harris, please call 244-3400, ext. 280.

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