AUBURN — The ownership group of the former St. Louis Church at 80 Third st. has decided to pull the plug on its efforts to redevelop the historic building. As a result, the city will foreclose on the property.

Noel Smith has managed the building’s ownership group, Pilotage, since 2014, when it bought the church from the Catholic diocese for $75.

In a letter dated Jan. 2, he told City Manager Peter Crichton that the group would no longer seek to postpone a pending foreclosure, saying it was not able to secure a “viable” use for the building.

“The members of Pilotage L3C, after much discussion and with regret, have decided not to pursue postponement of our pending foreclosure on the former St. Louis Church,” Smith wrote. “Although we have not been able to find a viable use to keep this historic building as a vital component of the New Auburn community, we take pride in preventing its demolition for more than four years. We wish the city of Auburn all success in keeping it on the landscape.” 

The church building has been in danger of demolition since it closed in 2013. The decision by the Catholic diocese to abandon the building also prompted attempts to save the church’s bells, which were cast at the world-famous Paccard Bell Foundry in France. 

That attempt, a separate yearslong project, finally received closure recently when it was revealed that the bells will be displayed in a new tower to be built in the redeveloped Anniversary Park, formerly Little Androscoggin Park, which is underway now. It is off Pulsifer Street, next to the New Auburn Social Club and Rolly’s Diner.

Crichton said Thursday that the city has not yet determined the future of the building. 

He said the city’s first step is to secure and evaluate the condition of the building. His office is also planning to host a meeting with the ownership group.

“We’re going to take it one step at a time,” he said. 

Thursday marked the last day for Pilotage to pay its property taxes for 2015 and 2016, meaning an automatic foreclosure is set for Friday. In previous years, the City Council waived foreclosure on the property to give the ownership group more time. The city also had tax liens on the property for 2017. 

A call to city staff regarding how much is owed in property taxes was not returned by late Thursday afternoon. 

Despite the uncertainty raised by the foreclosure, Mayor Jason Levesque said Thursday that he’s confident the building can still be spared from demolition.

“While I am discouraged that the planned redevelopment of the former St. Louis Church never materialized, I am thankful for the efforts made to save this piece of our history from the wrecking ball,” he said in an email. “We are now faced with the challenge of finding the best possible use and ownership for this property in order for it to once again be a source of pride and community connectivity. I am confident that we will be successful.”

The Jan. 2 letter from Smith also names Pilotage members Christine Holden and Donna LeBrun. When it was first launched, the group had five members. 

Among the group’s plans for redevelopment was the creation an arts space. In 2016, Pilotage members held an open house at the church with musicians playing on the altar and architectural drawings on view. 

The plans from Smith, an architect, called for a stage in place of the altar, with performance and office spaces on the floor below.

The church ended regular services in April 2013, after a 2012 evaluation put repair costs at an estimated $1 million.

According to a 2014 Sun Journal article, St. Louis Parish was created in 1902 and served the mostly French Canadian neighborhood in New Auburn. Parishioners first gathered in the church’s basement. When they raised enough money, they set to work on the tall, two-spired upper church, designed by architect Timothy G. O’Connell. O’Connell also designed St. Mary’s Church in Lewiston’s Little Canada neighborhood and would later design the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston.

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The ownership group of the former St. Louis Church in Auburn has decided not to pursue its plans to redevelop the 100-year-old building at 80 Third St. As a result, the city will foreclose on the property. (Sun Journal file photo) 

The owners of the St. Louis Church at 80 Third St. in Auburn held an open house in 2016 to share their goal of redeveloping the building into an arts space. (Sun Journal file photo) 


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