By Carol McCracken
Last month the St. Lawrence Arts Center filed an application with the city’s planning department for a Level 111 Site Plan approval for an addition to the current building at 76 Congress Street. The expansion is for a 400 seat theater to be built on the site of the 500-seat sanctuary that was demolished years ago. Some of the boulders were buried on the site with the hope they would be re-cycled.
Built in the late 1800s, the former St. Lawrence Congregational Church has always been a center of community activity on Munjoy Hill. Because of declining membership, the St. Lawrence closed its doors on Easter Sunday of 1986. The Church was especially instrumental in helping Hill residents during the Great Depression of 1929. There was a famous Sunday morning class that fed many who needed food. Many other stories of this type are bountiful in the history of the St. Lawrence Arts Center.
More than two years ago – on October 28, 2014 – the planning board unanimously approved draft amendments to a zoning agreement for the theater. Approval came in part because of a transportation model that the board applauded while Concerned Citizens of Munjoy Hill, led by a feisty Ralph Carmona, waged an opposition to the addition. Initially, the opposition was over the addition of the theater in such a prominent place on the HIll as well as over parking concerns. However, despite persistent efforts to organize the neighborhood by Carmona and his neighbors, the effort to derail the building failed
Nice and Lloyd made three (3) presentations to the Historic Preservation Board looking for feedback on the evolving plans for the addition. At all of them the Concerned Citizens were vocal in their objections to the project, hoping to halt the long-anticipated project from going forward.
A city required meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, December 28th at 6:00 pm at the St. Lawrence Arts Center. Thomas S. Greer, of Pinkham & Greer, Civil Engineers, will host the meeting at 76 Congress Street.
No date has yet been set for this matter to appear on the Planning Board agenda.