LEWISTON – The Franco-American Heritage Center at St. Mary’s has a new donor: the federal government.

On Tuesday, the center plans to accept a $367,500 check from the Rural Development office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The grant money will be used to continue renovations of the former church, by repairing its stonework and transforming the nave into a performing arts center.

“We have to sit down and take a look at where the money needs to go,” said Lionel Guay, the center’s chairman of the board.

The money will be particularly welcome since renovation work was halted last year.

So far, the center has spent nearly $2 million, fixing the worst of the problems in the granite facade. More money has been spent to complete the first phase of the performing arts center, bringing in theater seats and expanding the stage. More plans for the seating, lighting and sound have been waiting on more donations.

“There are a lot of worthy causes out there,” said Guay, citing fund raising for a new humane society shelter, among other area projects.

In all, the center’s renovation is projected to cost more than $4 million.

“This comes as a big boost,” said Guay, who is also Lewiston’s mayor. “This is all part of the rejuvenation of the city of Lewiston.”

Last Thursday, the city announced a 10-year plan to revive 30 blocks of the downtown, including the area where the center is located.

Tuesday’s check-passing is scheduled to include remarks by Michael Aube, state director of Rural Development, and Peter Thomas, associate administrator at Rural Development’s national office in Washington.

The ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Franco-American Heritage Center at the corner of Cedar and Oxford streets.


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