LEWISTON — Leaders of the Franco-American Heritage Center plan to erect a 14-foot-tall, $40,000 sign outside the grand Little Canada venue.

The aim: to remind people that life goes on inside.

“People still think we are still a church,” said Rita Dube, the center’s executive director. “It’s been nine years and a surprising number of people have never been inside.”

The modern gadgetry on the outside ought to hint at the state-of-the art performance hall inside, she said.

The new sign will feature 21-square-foot electronic screens on either side and enough high-tech wizardry to illuminate text about upcoming shows and illustrate them with pictures.

“We feel that it will be a great marketing tool for us,” Dube said.

The purchase has been on Dube’s wish list for years.

“We’ve been wanting it for a very long time, but we’ve never had the money,” she said.

Always, there have been more pressing projects, from the restoration of the building’s granite exterior to care of the roof and the renovation of the former church nave that now has comfortable, graduated seating for more than 300 people.

Work is going on in the former church hall downstairs to transform it into a modern function room with a new floor, a wet bar, new kitchen appliances and better sightlines.

On Tuesday, the floor was stripped and trenches were dug into the floor to aid the widening of some load-bearing columns and the removal of others.

The work is slated to continue until the spring. By the time it’s finished, Dube hopes the sign will be erected and running. Plans call for it to be built and fully installed sometime in March.

It ought to be noticeable to anyone passing by on busy Cedar Street. Besides the animated portions of the sign, it will resemble the former church with its pitched roof and the nearby Bernard Lown Peace Bridge in metallic green.

“We wanted something that feels like it’s a part of the neighborhood,” Dube said. “It was designed to blend in.”

Enough cars pass by that it ought to give added visibility to everything from weddings to piano recitals and concerts.

“We felt that investing the money in something that could market the center was the best way to spend it,” Dube said.

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