Case for- Giving

Executive Summary

Kingston’s Culture Plan calls on the community to invest in the city’s cultural resources to foster creativity and innovation and create wealth to benefit artists and residents alike. This is how we will attract and retain students and young professionals, grow the population base, manage our heritage resources, and build the creative experiences that are the basis of an authentic tourism strategy.

Adapted from the City of Kingston Culture Plan.

The Spire, located in the heart of the Old Sydenham Heritage Conservation District, has been a gathering place for the people of Kingston since long before Confederation. Originally serving as the city’s circus site, the land was donated in 1851 by our city’s first mayor, John Counter. The building is well known as a centre for music and the arts, and as a welcoming and affordable haven for assembly, celebration, reflection and social action. The name, The Spire, captures in two small words the historic value and the new identity of this precious asset in our community.

The Spire represents a unique and innovative addition to the cultural and community assets of our city – (a) unique by virtue of its location, its heritage architecture, its multi-purpose functions, its accessibility, its historic role as a community gathering place and its affordability and (b) innovative in providing a community-driven, sustainable model for protecting and expanding a heritage city resource.

A recent study by the Halo Project used standard economic development tools to measure The Halo Effect of the current operations at 82 Sydenham Street. The study estimated that the current activities in the building generate over $1.7M per year in benefits for the city. It is reasonable to predict that number will increase when The Spire is fully operational.

Friends of The Spire is a committed group of Kingstonians who have imagined and are making this vision a reality. Friends has three goals:

  1. to engage long-term community support for the project;
  2. to develop and implement a sustainable business plan for The Spire; and
  3. to ensure the sound management of the building on an ongoing basis.

This heritage building is an integral part of our city’s streetscape and recognized as a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture. It is a well-spring of creativity and inspiration – every week 1000-1200 Kingstonians use it to create music, to plan programs, to find counsel, to gather for learning and support. They know they are welcome regardless of age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, economic circumstance, ability or challenges. But the building’s future is uncertain. Changing demographics, changing times and changing economics all call for a new vision and a new mandate.

Friends have a three-point plan to preserve and expand this resource, which will offer major economic and social benefits to the city – total cost: $1.7M

  1. Make The Spire fully accessible: ensure that everyone can enjoy the space and that provincial standards are met with the addition of an elevator to the community spaces on the second floor and an additional accessible entrance.
  2. Accommodate increased usage with improved washrooms and common spaces to meet public standards and the needs of large audiences.
  3. Plan for the future with a $1,000,000 endowment fund that will support the long-term preservation and enhancement of the building.

Currently, there is no facility in the city that offers this combination of accessible space, multi-faceted programs and flexible use – and certainly not at the user fees that we offer. Accessibility is of the essence in order for The Spire to achieve its vision of being open to all. It is a core element of our plan tied to the city’s demographics, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) legislation and our location adjacent to the city’s downtown health care and education campuses. The Spire with its ample corridors, wide door passages, new elevator, improved street access and upgraded washrooms will meet or surpass every standard in this regard.

The timing for this proposal is ideal. Many generations of Kingstonians – congregation members, families and friends of Sydenham Street United – have contributed to the preservation and enhancement of the church building as it is known and loved today. In the past 20 years, the congregation has invested over $2M to maintain and upgrade the building’s infrastructure. In the last six months, members have stepped up again and have committed/raised nearly $700,000 to seed this bold new initiative.

Now we are reaching out to the community to invest. Strong philanthropic support is essential to preserve this Kingston treasure and to realize the vision we have for The Spire. The foundation is in place. Generous personal and corporate contributions will make this transformation possible and will add weight to our applications for a range of complementary grants.

A prominent leader from the Kingston business community summed up the opportunity in these words: “I think the concept is very good. This is a choice building – part of the ‘essential Kingston’. $1M is not a lot. Get a commitment from the users and ask the community to match their gifts. Remind donors of all the volunteer energy that is/will be nurtured and generated here.”

The following detailed Case for Giving and appendices provide a full explanation of the concept, the financial projections and the opportunities for community members to support this visionary project.

I fully support the efforts of Sydenham Street United Church as they seek external funding to make the building more accessible with the installation of an elevator. This is an organization that is clearly determined to make the operation of their building sustainable, while being focused on serving the broader community through social justice and the arts.

Matt Salton
Executive Director, Reelout Arts Project Inc.

As a small theatre organization, the Sydenham Street United Church upper floor space was the only affordable downtown venue for our performance of Luminous Clouded Titan. We carried an audience member and wheelchair up two flights of stairs in order for them to experience our show…The proposed accessible entrance and elevator is a much needed upgrade that would greatly benefit groups like ours and our audience alike.
Aleksandra Bragoszewska
Birdbone Theatre

Case for Giving in Detail

The Spire Community Campaign offers the community an opportunity to be part of this unique investment in the social, economic and cultural fabric of our city. For more details on Friends of the Spire, their members, and governance structure, please see “Historical Note on the Building” and “Significance of the Building for Kingston Today: A Commentary by Dr. Carl Bray”.


The Spire of Sydenham Street United Church has been standing tall on the Kingston skyline since 1851 – long before Confederation. Mariners on the St. Lawrence relied on it as a beacon and a sign of safe harbour. In fact, this land has always been a hub for the Kingston community in the heart of the Old Sydenham Heritage Conservation District. Originally, it served as the city’s circus lands and was donated in 1851 by our first mayor, John Counter.

This heritage building is an integral part of the streetscape of the Old Sydenham Heritage Conservation District and recognized as a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture. Its stone exterior detailing is matched in the interior by ornate plasterwork and delicately carved wood paneling, trim and furnishings. The elegant performance hall is embraced by a gracefully curved balcony, creating a warm space for performance and community events with excellent choral acoustics (see Appendix A and Appendix B).

Today it is the home for 16 community organizations who find safe harbour and inspiration within its walls. It is a favourite rehearsal and performance venue for local and visiting performances and a popular hub for dozens of educational and cultural events each month.

The building welcomes people of all ages, races, gender identities, sexual orientations, ethnic origins, economic circumstances, abilities and challenges. It is a precious resource and source of creativity and inspiration for our city and beyond, but its future is uncertain. Changing demographics, changing times and changing economics call for a new vision and a new mandate for this unique community asset.

Friends of the Spire have an exciting vision and a bold commitment to protect and renew this building for future generations. It includes a detailed plan to preserve it, expand access, enable new uses and invite new users. The name, The Spire, captures in two small words the historic value and the new identity of this valuable asset in our community:

  • It reflects the stunning architecture of the building and our commitment to preserving it for the future.
  • It reinforces the building’s historic role as a landmark and beacon on Kingston’s skyline.
  • It is rooted in the Latin word “spirare” and expresses the broader purpose of the building – a place where the community can breathe, create, aspire, perspire and inspire.
  • It complements the other great cultural/heritage spaces in the city like The Tett, The Isabel, The Grand and The Agnes.

In the winter of 2017, Friends of The Spire commissioned a Halo Study report, with the full support of the Sydenham Street congregation, to determine the economic impact on the community of all the operations at The Spire for the preceding year.

These operations included activities of:

  • Cantabile Choirs
  • Kingston Association of Museums, Galleries and Historic Sites
  • Kingston Canadian Film Festival
  • Helen Tufts Child Outreach Program
  • Loving Spoonful
  • a number of self-help groups
  • and of course, the work of the congregation of Sydenham Street United Church.

The Halo Study report concluded that the operations at The Spire represented a value to the community of $1.7 million. To read the complete Halo Study, please see the Halo Study Report.



The Spire is one of the oldest, largest, yet most intimate cultural buildings in the City of Kingston. Most weeks of the year, 1000-1200 people walk through its doors – to enjoy a wide variety of activities offered there. The building is “home” to many vibrant community organizations including:

  • Multiple AA and other self-help groups
  • Cantabile Choirs of Kingston
  • Beyond Classrooms Kingston
  • Helen Tufts Child Outreach
  • Kingston Canadian Film Festival
  • Kingston Choral Society
  • Sydenham Street United Church congregation


The Spire is unique by virtue of its location, its heritage architecture, its historic role and reputation as a welcoming community hub, its multi-purpose functionality, and its affordability. It has one of the most intimate and acoustically suitable spaces for choral music for its size in Kingston. The Spire ensures that this magnificent building will continue to be a dynamic hub for the arts, social justice and community building for generations to come.


There are two investments required to launch and sustain The Spire:

  1. Improve accessibility, washrooms and common spaces. Cost: $700,000
    • Install an elevator giving access to the second floor
    • Install an accessible side entrance
    • Accommodate increased usage by improving washrooms and commonspaces to accommodate the high-traffic demands of large audiences
  2. Plan for Capital Repairs/Improvements: create an endowment fund to be held by the Community Foundation For Kingston & Area that will support the longterm preservation and enhancement of the building. Cost: $1,000,000


In the initial phase of this campaign (Fall 2016), Friends raised over $600,000 from congregational members and close to $100,000 in grants for the project. The goal for the Community Campaign is an additional $800,000. We are seeking support for:

  1. At least $300,000 in expendable gift support over the next 12 months to complete the immediate capital improvements to the building.
  2. At least $700,000 to establish the endowment fund that will support the long-term preservation and enhancement of the building. This fund will be managed by the Community Foundation of Kingston and Area, which will ensure that the investment is maximized and the funds are expended prudently in accordance with the intent of the donor.


The Friends of the Spire have:

  • A vision for a barrier-free, self-sustaining community centre that will ensure this building continues to serve as a vibrant cultural, social and community resource
  • A detailed assessment of the work required (See Appendix C)
  • A business plan to ensure long-term viability of The Spire (See Appendix D)
  • A tested management structure that draws on community expertise and networks to build the The Spire’s presence and impact over time (See Appendix E)
  • A pool of lead donors who have already pledged 40% of the target to ensure the success of the campaign.

The Spire campaign offers a cost-effective opportunity to leverage the commitment of the members of Sydenham Street United Church and The Friends of the Spire for a visionary project that will have significant impact on the social, economic and cultural life in our city.