By Carol McCracken (Post # 544)
For the second time in as many months, representatives of the St. Lawrence Arts Center appeared before the city’s planning board in support of their appplication for conditional rezoning at 76 Congress Street on the Hill.
The building was built in 1897. It served as a congregational churchuntil 1986 when its doors closed. The Parish Hall was renovated into a theatre/auditoirium space in 2001. However, the sanctuary portion of the building was left vacant. Three years ago, the sanactuary was “dismantled” and many of the stone parts of the edifice were buried on wite; with the intention of reusing them when the structure was rebuilt. The board of the non-profit, however, needs to get zoning permission for this rebuilding before the fund raising can begin to rebuild the 400 seat auditorium in the old sanctuary space. This size audidtorium would attract top-notch entertainers to the St. Lawrence.
Architect and long-time board member, Joe Delaney, said that when the sanctuary section of the former church was dismantled, the board had no plans for the future. Once the building comes down, one year is allowed within which to rebuild it; otherwise the planning board needs to approve it.
Bruce Hyman, a planner who recently joined the St. Lawrence board and since that time was hired as the city’s new bicycle Pedestrian coordinator described in detail a program – TDM – that includes strategies combining parking managment, tansit encouragement and other mechanisms to reduce single-occupancy vehicle use – through incentives to promote bicycling, walking, bus transit, and carpooling to performances and events. This is a strategy that the St. Lawrence would institute because it has no on-site parking available to it.
A tentative public hearing for the conditional rezoning application will go before the planning board on September 14th at city hall, Room 209.
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