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