Portland’s Planning Board gave final approval Tuesday to plans for a proposed 400-seat performance hall on Munjoy Hill.

The board held a public hearing before voting 7-0 late Tuesday to approve the site plan for the St. Lawrence Arts Center at 66 Congress Street.

Friends of the St. Lawrence Church first presented their plans for a performance hall more than five years ago, receiving mixed reviews.

After revising their plans several times, the city and applicant finally were able to reach an agreement that satisfied concerns about parking and transportation.

“I think this could become a real jewel for the city,” said David Lloyd, the project’s architect.

Several planning board members thanked the Friends of St. Lawrence for their patience and perseverance in sticking to their vision.

“I think it’s a very exciting project,” board member Elizabeth Boepple said.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission still needs to issue a certificate of approval for the project since the church is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The project plan approved Tuesday night includes a 401-seat theater, a lobby, promenade room and basement located inside a 6,715-square-foot contemporary addition to the 19th century Gothic-style church.

Friends of the church say they will need to raise $10 million to build the 52-foot high addition. The existing building has a 110-seat parish hall that is used for concerts and other performances. That venue would remain intact after the new hall opens.

The project represents a significant undertaking for the friends group, a small nonprofit founded in 1996 to renovate the church. The group also sought to renovate the former sanctuary and 80-foot bell tower, but had to demolish those due to structural issues.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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