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Kelly Clement was always intrigued by the little Alpine village her mom re-created at Christmastime.

Amid the series of miniature buildings, her favorite was a little white church with beautiful stained-glass windows. It was a dream come true to have an opportunity to re-create a life-size replica when she and her husband, Steve Bucher, purchased a church in White Bear Lake and converted it into their home.

"I turn on the lights every night now that we're closer to Christmas so that people walking by can have that experience of a little Christmas church with the lit windows like in that Alpine village," she said. "It gets pretty spectacular walking by at nighttime, looking at the windows there."

Clement said the glass windows with sacred pictorial scenes were salvaged from churches in Afton and Minneapolis. Carpenters built individual frames and sashes.

The windows were among the many major updates the couple took on when converting the space into a three-bedroom, four-bath home complete with a concert venue and year-round hot tub.

After nearly four years, the couple have put the beloved property on the market. They'll also throw in a pontoon boat since the property is just a few blocks from White Bear Lake. The two found so much joy in renovating that they wanted to start a new project.

"What we found in our relationship is that we like doing remodeling projects, and that one was our sixth project in four years," Bucher said. "We've found a lot of architecturally appealing properties for sale out there that need our touch."

Saving a teardown

The property, built in 1889, is the oldest surviving church building in White Bear Lake. After learning that a developer planned to demolish it, Clement and Bucher, keen on saving it, put in an offer. But it was in bad shape and needed to be updated if it was to survive.

The couple overhauled the building, stripping it down to the studs. They redid everything from the plumbing and electrical systems to the insulation. They installed solar panels on the roof and three heat pump furnaces, as well.

Clement and Bucher estimate that heating and cooling the 7,800-square-foot building costs approximately as much as it would for an average 3,000-square-foot home.

"This is a completely new rebuild," Clement said. "The only things that are original to the building are the studs, a one-by-eight, some of the wood panels and part of the floor."

Other upgrades included the kitchen, which was completely remodeled with drawers that electronically open with just the touch of a finger. There's now a heated garage and a year-round hot tub. They added rooms, too, including two bedrooms and a bathroom in the basement.

"My favorite thing about the house is that there's something to see in every corner and every wall in every direction that you look," Bucher said. "Your eye almost doesn't know where to land. There's so much to see."

Community gathering spot

While the property started out as a church, it was transformed in 1971 into a community theater for the Lakeshore Players. In 2018, the theater company moved to a new building.

Clement and Bucher wanted to reopen some of the space — the area where the theater once was — to the community by hosting musical performances.

But the high ceilings and hard surface floors made it a bit too echo-y, the couple said. Musicians themselves, they did a lot of research to ensure that an assortment of instruments could be heard perfectly.

"We wanted to keep some of that liveliness in the room, but we did tone it down with some acoustic treatments so that modern musical performance doesn't sound too muddy," Bucher said.

Then they added technical equipment: a mixing unit, subwoofer, speakers and high-tech software for the sound system.

Clement and Bucher now host performances from various groups about once a month and hope the new owners will continue that tradition.

"I can't tell you how many people expressed their gratitude over the fact that this building would stay in their neighborhood," Bucher said. "We want it to be used for what we built it for — musical performance and using it to foster the development of musicians in the community. ... That would be the best outcome."

Linda Powers (651-315-4119, of the Powers and Ludwigson Group has the $3.45 million listing.