June 24, 2019
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Catholic Diocese sells Portland church to Jewish group

PORTLAND, Maine — St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church at 1342 Congress St. will be sold to the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine.

“The JCA has completed a purchase and sale agreement for the land on which we will build our new home,” Jewish Community Alliance President Steven Brinn and Executive Director Emily Chaleff announced Dec. 22 in an email to members.

On Dec. 23, Chaleff said the agreement means the Jewish Community Center will be able to move from its building at 57 Ashmont St., which lacks adequate space for the Jewish Community Alliance’s programs and services.

“Over time, it just wasn’t big enough,” Chaleff said of the Jewish Community Center home for the last 32 years.

The alliance and community center are used by Jews and non-Jews from the midcoast through southern York County. Programs include Jewish Family Services, Center Day Camp, and other social service, educational, recreational and cultural activities.

The agreement also marks the end of concurrent efforts to find a new home for the Jewish Community Center and to sell the Congress Street property owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

The sale price was not disclosed, but an online listing by Malone Commercial Brokers asked $1.6 million for the 2.2-acre site.

The deal to sell the church comes after a 2013 agreement with Charter Realty & Development Corp. fell through. Charter, owners of the adjacent Westgate Shopping Center, intended to tear down the church and redevelop the property.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland spokesman Dave Guthro did not return telephone calls and emails about the sale to the Jewish Community Alliance.

The alliance was formed by merging the Jewish Community Center and former Jewish Federation in 1998, Chaleff said. A task force was formed in 2009 to find a new building, and Chaleff said it was the generosity of Sidney Levine that moved the process forward.

Levine, a Portland native and tailor who died Jan. 15, 2011, at age 88, left his assets to the alliance, providing seed money for a capital campaign.

“It was really prescient of Mr. Levine to make this gift,” Chaleff said. “I don’t think we’d be where we are today without his foresight.

“It is a really wonderful neighborhood opportunity,” Chaleff said, adding the task force sought an easily accessible site, close to Interstate 295 and with enough room to build a playground for children in the alliance’s day camps and pre- and after-school programs.

The alliance expects to double its indoor space to between 15,000 and 18,000 square feet.

The immediate plans are to meet with neighbors to discuss potential plans and start the municipal review process for permits, Chaleff said.

“We are in a quiet phase of fundraising,” she said.

City tax records indicate St. Patrick’s was built in 1964. Church services there ended in 2013.

The sale would be another in a recent series of divestitures by the diocese.

The former St. Patrick School at 1251 Congress St. was closed in 2007 and converted to condominiums. In December 2013, the diocese completed the $730,000 sale of St. John the Evangelist Church and associated properties around 611 Main St. in South Portland.

The Jewish Community Center was located in a five-story Cumberland Avenue building until the move to Ashmont Street in 1982.

 



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