The 145-year-old church in Hamilton is to be converted into a community center
A 145-year-old Hamilton church that has long been on the city‘s restoration to-do list is expected to reopen as a community center in 2024.
The city has awarded a $4.6 million contract for St. Mark’s Church’s adaptive reuse project and expects construction to begin this month.
This is welcome, if not belated, news for the Durand Community Association, which will make 130 Bay St. S. Church its home base.
“We have to plan a big party,” Janice Brown, board member and heritage advocate, said Wednesday in anticipation of the project’s completion.
In 1994, the city bought the church, which had closed in 1989, for $425,000 to keep it from demolition, but officials then balked at a $315,000 repair estimate.
Subsequent efforts to remodel the brick sanctuary with a gabled roof, bell tower, and arched windows never met with approval.
“So we saved the church, but it was literally demolition through neglect of a municipal facility,” Coun said. Jason Farr, who was first elected in 2010, said after a landmark event on Wednesday.
A few years ago, Farr noted, the council supported his request to invest in the historic building, resulting in a $1.8 million first phase that included preliminary site work, including new service connections, foundation repairs and a roof replacement .
The next order includes the restoration of the interior; add accessible entrances, washrooms and a kitchen; build a stage; installation of a rainwater management system; and creation of an outdoor meeting space and perennial garden.
For a time, however, it seemed like the asking price meant about $250,000 worth of “nice-to-haves” would have to be scrapped from the project, Farr noted.
The Patrick J. McNally Charitable Foundation, which has donated to other local projects, has offered to fill the gap, the Ward 2 local council said.
“So everything we wanted and expected in terms of this restoration happened.”
Reviewing plans for the outdoor community space is important to the foundation, said Board Member Graham McNally.
“Make it as good as you can so it encourages people to use it, and then it increases the odds of success,” said McNally, who is an architect.
Brown noted that the neighborhood association would finally have its own meeting space. “We’ve been meeting in dining rooms since 1972.”
But she also looks forward to St. Mark hosting cultural events, weddings, birthday parties and concerts. “Things that bring the community together.”