Case Study: The Spire of Sydenham / Sydenham United Church

An Updated Case Study, Three Years Into A Split Governance Experiment. Areas of Interest: Governance Shifts, Community Centres, Accessibility Upgrades

Case Study

The Backstory

The Spire of Sydenham
Photo by Kendra Fry

Beginning in 2007, following a discernment process, Sydenham United Church in Kingston, ON began talking about their vision for sharing their building with the whole community. Artsand community -based groups already broadly used the space, but upgrades to accessibility would enable more usage and solidify the position of the building as a community hub.

Following a sustainability study in 2012/13 the congregation adopted a path that led to taking on a new governance structure in late 2015/16. A new not for profit was launched (Friends of The Spire Inc.) enabling involvement of the Friends in the oversight of the building with both church and non-church community members serving on the Business Management Group. Friends of The Spire has taken on responsibility for raising funds for capital upgrades and fundraising for the building, while the church board maintained the title to the building and responsibility for church activities.

Current Situation

Following two years operating under this structure, Friends of The Spire reports good progress on the capital upgrades and increased building usage.

  • An elevator was installed allowing full accessibility in the building
  • Washrooms sufficient to serve up to 850 patrons were installed
  • In 2019 additional sufficient funds have been donated that will allow them to complete an accessibility ramp from the sidewalk
  • A modest increase of about 10% in rental revenues was realized in 2018
  • Currently 1,000 to 12,000 members of the public utilized the building every week – 10,000 in December alone

Looking Ahead

The Spire hopes to continue building on its successful partnerships, bringing in more community groups and increasing usage over time. They believe that they are two to three years away from a fully financially sustainable model.