LEWISTON — Developer Andrew Knight had his eyes on a large-scale events center when he purchased the former St. Patrick’s Church last year with its grand space and soaring spires.
The former rectory just came along as part of the deal.
“I knew I had to do something with it,” Knight said. “It’s such a beautiful building. You don’t tear it down, and you don’t turn it into an office building, I don’t think. You have to really take advantage of it and do something productive.”
Knight’s planned Agora Grand Events Center won’t open until 2015. He has a lot of work to do before then, re-purposing the historic circa-1890 St. Patrick’s Church into a modern venue for conventions, private celebrations and weddings.
“I’ve hired a local architect and a fire design engineer to work up a plan that will satisfy the state fire marshal and the local fire department,” Knight said. “We want to be sure it’s safe for a large group of people. I’d like to have room for 600 people. It’s very large inside.”
But the smaller, circa-1870 rectory building should be open as a five-bed boutique hotel later this summer. Inn at The Agora could take in its first guests late in August, he said.
“The idea now is to not change the use of the property legally,” Knight said. “Every homeowner has the legal right to rent out a couple of rooms. So right now, we’re just going to open the doors and see how business is. It’s an interesting project in an interesting part of town and we want to see what the community’s response is going to be.”
The rectory building actually predates the church. Built by architect Albert Kelsey, the Catholic diocese liked the building and the land around it enough to buy it.
“Nothing else existed, at that point,” he said. “They turned it into a rectory and built the church around it.”
He’s brought on local hotelier and former Ware Street Inn owner Jan Barrett to manage the property once it’s open. She’s been busy washing linens and towels for the rooms, decorating and finding artwork for the walls and making sure each room has a functioning alarm clock.
The inn won’t serve any meals. Barrett calls it a “boutique hotel” with exquisitely appointed rooms and bathrooms. It will have two rooms with king-sized beds and three with queen-sized beds.
“It’s going to be a different perspective from what I’ve done before,” she said. “It makes it less stressful. I’m going to be more concerned with keeping up the website, www.innattheagora.com, keeping a blog, making sure reservations are running well, managing housekeeping. It’s going to be a different perspective from what I’ve done before.”