One thought on “Article in Hamilton Spectator on Amalgamation”

  1. And here is the Op Ed piece that followed:

    The Spectator’s view: Hamilton churches: Architectural assets at risk
    Hamilton Spectator
    They are impressive, sometimes even majestic, pieces of architecture. They have undeniable historical and heritage value. They dot our urban landscape.
    And they’re in trouble — big trouble.
    We’re talking about churches, such as Centenary United and its Main Street East neighbour St. Giles, where congregations have agreed to work toward amalgamation and plan a vote next May.
    If it happens, chances are the local United Church Presbytery will have to sell off one of the two properties. Both are more than a century old. And this is just one example. All over the city, especially in the urban centre but also to a lesser degree in nearby rural areas, churches of nearly all denominations have the same problem: declining participation, dwindling finances and big bills for upkeep and repairs. Many are sharing ministry staff and finding other ways to economize. But there’s only so much they can do, especially with expensive and unsustainable physical infrastructure.
    The multimillion-dollar question is what happens to these churches when the congregations or governing bodies can no longer afford to keep them? Odds are they will be sold.
    Ideally, they would undergo “adaptive reuse” measures and begin new lives in their neighbourhoods and communities. But these are often not easy buildings to work with. Adapting heritage buildings for alternate uses is nearly always a challenge, and churches are even more so because of their physical characteristics and design. They don’t lend themselves to traditional residential or commercial uses. Adapting them as community centres and gathering places is more viable, but those uses don’t typically carry the revenue potential developers will want and need to make the required investment.
    Some churches already have heritage designations which require developers to honour their architecture and character.
    The James Street Baptist Church, built in the late 1800s, was sold to a Toronto developer who, as of early this year, had plans that would value the “cultural heritage and significance” of the building. But many don’t have that designation, so there’s nothing stopping developers from tearing them down if they don’t see a viable business case for preservation.
    At best, in some cases, these historic churches will sit empty and deteriorating, as is the case with the boarded-up St. Mark’s on Bay Street, which the city bought in the early ’90s to prevent it from being demolished to build a highrise apartment. The city succeeded in saving St. Mark’s, but to what end?
    In the next decade, dozens of other congregations will find hemselves in the same position as Centenary and St. Giles. Some will find ways to evolve, but many will not, and their physical legacy will be at risk. This is an important heritage discussion that should move forward soon.

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