Architect David Lloyd presented an overview of a proposed contemporary 400-seat theater to a handful of Munjoy Hill neighbors who attended a meeting required by Portland in anticipation of the non-profit’s upcoming appearance before the planning board for a site review. That approval would permit the long-anticipated theater to become “shovel ready” for construction that could attract investors when the $10M is raised to finance the project.
Sixteen years ago, the SLA first opened its doors to the public. Back in 2000, it was a stand-alone nonprofit – there were no restaurants – The Front Room, The Blue Spoon and Rosemont Bakery were no where in sight – they were not even on the horizon. Rather, the area was dominated by a run-down convenience store that some believed was selling drugs on the side. Drug deals were happening in broad daylight on street corners near the former Congregational Church. It was a neighborhood in which to proceed with caution because residents never knew what could be lurking in the area. City officials seemed to be indifferent.
But the emergence of SLA transformed all of that. The clean-up of a drug haven began. Residents needed to no longer proceed with caution in the area. And today the area is one of the most desirable locations in the City of Portland. Many residents thought the idea of a theater in the area was pure fantasy and would never happen – the odds were against it. But Nice and Bill Milliken proved them wrong! And now the SLA is embarked on another groundbreaking vision – certain to bring out the critics, but more importantly will complete the vision of Diedre Nice, her staff and friends.
The church was built in 1897 by the same architect who designed Norumbega in Camden, Maine. In 1992, Nice purchased the building from the then current owner. Previously it had served as a Congregational Church that was a center of the community during the Great Depression. In 2006, the 500-seat sanctuary collapsed. In 2008, the acoustically perfect sanctuary was demolished over the course of several days. The plan was always, always to replace it with a concert hall large enough to draw bigger entertainment names than currently possible.
No date has been set yet for the site plan review by the Planning Board. For more background information, please see post herein dated December 12, 2016.