ROCKLAND — The Rockland Planning Board gave final approval Tuesday night, Jan. 17 for a proposal to convert a historic Main Street building into a center for community events.

The proposal at 500 Main St. gained the support of downtown business representatives.

“This will bring a tremendous amount of added vitality to Main Street,” said Jessie Davis. She said the Strand Theatre could partner with the facility.

Betty Shannon of Somebody Loves Me Bridal said she is very much in favor of the events center, saying one was needed.

Raleigh Churchill who owns a nearby property at 5 Linden St. also voiced support.

The plan approved Jan. 17 calls for two levels of retail space, two levels of restaurant space, three apartments (two studio and one one-bedroom) and a large assembly venue in the former church. The retail and restaurant spaces will be leased out to businesses.

The events center venue will be for weddings and large gatherings, dances and musical performances. An accessory space to the events center will include a bar and catering kitchen.

There will be two additions to the building, a 900-square-foot addition on the Summer Street side and a 300-square-foot addition on the Main Street side. An elevator will be added to the building.

The developers are Robert Arena and Valerie Landsburg under the corporate name NE2, LLC, who bought the property in April. Arena owns property across the street where Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegars is located. Landsburg had attempted in 2019 to develop the former Bicknell Manufacturing Plant on Lime Street until DuPont bought the property.

Planning Board Chair Erik Laustsen said last month he liked what was being proposed and that it would be much better than what had last been in the building — a marijuana store.

The formal application filed Nov. 22 stated that the development could attract an additional 225 vehicles but the average would be 136 and that would largely occur during off-peak hours.

The historic building is the former First Baptist Church, built in 1836 before Rockland was incorporated. The building has undergone numerous renovations and additions over the nearly 200 years, including the brick and steel renovations around 1959. Most recently, Scrimshaw Cannabis leased space in the building.