St. Louis investors meeting with New Auburn neighbors

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AUBURN — The investors behind the preservation of the former St. Louis Church want to begin a conversation with the landmark’s New Auburn neighborhood.

On Wednesday, architect Noel Smith and members of the investment group, Pilotage LLC, plan to meet with people at Sacred Heart Church in Auburn. And on Dec. 23, the group plans to meet with members of the New Auburn Business Association.

“We’re hoping to provide a conduit for people to talk to us and get involved in any way they want,” Smith said. “We met some of these people before, last year, when we were trying to convince the parish not to tear (St. Louis Church) down. We’re going to try to just reach out to those folks again to let them know who we are and what our basic intent is.”

On Dec. 2, Smith and church officials confirmed the sale between Pilotage and Maine’s Roman Catholic diocese.

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Though the church sold for a token amount of $75, many thousands of dollars will be needed to save the building, once poised for the wrecking ball.

In August 2013, the church held its final Mass, drawing more than 400 people to hear a goodbye by former Maine Bishop Richard Malone.

That ceremony followed almost a year of angst over repair costs.

In the fall of 2012, a parish analysis found severe structural problems in the church. Issues included large cracks down a tower, cracks in a concrete overhang and a deteriorating stone crown on the roof. That winter, the church took down one of the bell towers.

The church ended regular services in April 2013.

Repair costs were estimated to surpass $1 million.

“We’re not deep-pocket developers,” Smith said. “We’re just local people. We’ve taken it up because no one else would.”

Wednesday’s meeting is planned for 11:30 a.m. at Sacred Heart Church. The Dec. 23 meeting is planned for 6 p.m. at Rolly’s Diner.

“We don’t have a lot of detail to go into now,” Smith said. “Our primary thrust is going to be trying to keep the building lighted and heated and usable, and start to put together a plan to start doing repairs to it.”

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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