This may seem like a bad time to raise money for anything as “frivolous” as a performing arts center, but the Friends of St. Lawrence know different.

First of all, there is nothing frivolous about a facility that brings attention to the arts and attracts customers to a neighborhood’s restaurants, galleries and specialty shops.

And there is no “bad” time for an arts institution with supporters who have showed remarkable tenacity, establishing one of the state’s busiest performance venues during all kinds of economic weather.

The St. Lawrence Church was built in 1897 and left empty when the congregation moved on in 1986. After sitting vacant for a few years, it was bought by a local businesswoman and eventually turned over to the newly created Friends of St. Lawrence Arts Center in 1997.

The first step was to make a theater in the old parish house, but the goal was to renovate the whole building, creating a midsized performance space that Portland lacks while preserving a landmark.

The theater has been an unqualified success, with plays, music, comedy and performance art on tap virtually every night of the year. But the group was not able to save the sanctuary before it suffered a partial collapse, which necessitated its demolition for safety reasons.

Plans for a new facility that would echo the original in design and fill a need for the performing community are now before city planners. All they need to start building is $17 million, which is a lot to raise under any circumstances.

But no one should count out this feisty group. It has shown the ability to build something out of nothing, leading the way to the neighborhood’s rebirth. Portland has already benefited from its work and we can’t wait to see the next act.