St. Lawrence Arts Center Plan on Agenda of Planning Board This Month

Deirdre Nice, executive director of the SLA and Architect David Lloyd at a Planning Board Meeting.

Architect David Lloyd’s Rendering of the Proposed Addition to the St. Lawrence Arts Center.   The Stage is Located in the Foreground – the Lighter Color.

Portland’s Planning Board has announced that it has scheduled an evening workshop for Tuesday, May 23, 2017 to consider a proposal by the Friends of the St. Lawrence Church for a contemporary 401 seat theater addition.  The meeting is set for 7:00 pm., in city council chambers and is fourth on the agenda. That means that it might be addressed around 8:30 pm.

The addition includes the 401 theater, lobby area, promenade room on the top and accessory uses in the basement.  It replaces the 110 seat sanctuary known for its amazing acoustics. It had to be  torn down years ago because of its deterioration which caused it to be condemned by the city.

It has always been the plan to rebuild an addition to replace the sanctuary.  The proposed addition is 6,715 sq. ft.  A Conditional Rezoning Agreement, as amended, regulates the site and the addition will be reviewed under the site plan ordinance.

The addition is also subject to Historic Preservation review.  David Lloyd, Archetype Architects, is the architect.  A letter was submitted to the planning department on November 18, 2016 from civil engineers Pinkham & Greer stating among other things that the “project will be funded with donations.  The start of the project will be dependent on that success.”  Barbara Vestal is the project attorney.

Construction of the former Congregational Church took place in the late 19th century.  For years, especially during the Great Depression of 1929, the Church was the center of community activity.  But because of declining membership, the Church closed its doors on Easter Sunday of 1986.    It could not afford the upkeep of this landmark building on Munjoy Hill any longer.  Just after its construction, it was discovered and recorded in church records that there were already leaks in the roof.  Leaks that could not be fixed.

In 2000, the Queen-Anne style building was converted into the St. Lawrence Arts and Cultural Center, later to be renamed, the St. Lawrence Arts Center.  Many long-time residents of the Hill credit the “repurposing” of the building with starting the revitalization of Munjoy Hill. It had long been a blighted area burdened with crime and drug activity for which many avoided the area.  Following its restoration, restaurants began to pop-up where before many run-down businesses existed and some vacant buildings were not unusual.   During the last decade or so,  a full-scale gentrification of Munjoy Hill has taken place.

Plans can be viewed at the Planning Office, city hall on the fourth floor.  For more information, please contact Nell Donaldson, at 874-8723 or at ncd@portlandmaine.gov.

For more background information, please see post herein dated February 10, 2014.

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