Does converting the building into a Concert Hall mean the congregation has to close?
No. Our proposal enables the congregation to continue having services on Sundays and church holidays. They also continue to maintain an office at the building have shared access to common spaces in the basement such as kitchen, auditorium, and a newly renovated conference room. Additionally the congregation will have access to capital improvements to the building such as new bathrooms, a new stage, lighting, and sound. Funerals and weddings will still be available to congregants, subject to programming availability.
Will the building receive heritage designation?
Yes.Under our proposal the interior and exterior of the building will be designated. Funds from designation will be used to repair the roof.
Will Heritage Designation provide enough funds to solve the roof problem?
The most heritage designation might generate is about $110,000 in matching funds. Third Avenue Centre will develop funding and partnerships to raise the remaining funds.
Won't heritage designation mean the new owner has to ask the City for permission for every minor modification they make?
That's what realtors told developer Wally Mah before he decided to designate the Arthur Cook Building on 24th Street and Pacific Ave. "Realtors said don’t do it, the city will control your future, but we looked into it and there was no problem" says Mah, who received $150,000 in tax abatement for his decision to designate. Mah's company, Northridge Developments, went on to modernize all the windows, build an addition for the elevator, and convert the building from a warehouse to an upscale office building. The idea that a heritage designated building cannot be changed is a myth, as set forth in the section "Common Myths" in a publication by the Department of Saskatchewan Culture, Youth, and Recreation titled: Historical Buildings - Modern Uses.
What condition is the building in?
The only known significant problem with the building is the shingles. The shingles were last replaced in the 1950s and have been estimated to cost $225,000 to replace due to their asbestos composition. Heritage designation would likely result in significant funds to help replace them. Cheaper repair options are also being explored.
As it ages, won't repair costs get out of hand, just like my old car?
Unlike cars, this building is made of two foot thick walls built of solid stone. The craftsmanship and materials used for this building are superior to anything available today. Similar churches in Europe and Eastern North America have lasted centuries. In comparison, the new $135 million police station being built in Saskatoon is designed to be used at most 50 years. The only major maintenance foreseen for the Church is the upcoming roof job. While the potential cost of $225,000 is not inexpensive, it is less than the amount recently approved to repair the mechanical equipment at the three-year old Shaw Centre on 22nd Street.
If the building is Heritage Designated won’t that make the building less valuable?
Maybe. The common belief among Saskatoon realtors and developers is that heritage designation always decreases property values, but studies show that this is not generally true. Dr. Robert Shipley of the University of Waterloo showed otherwise in his extensive study titled Heritage Designation and Property Values: Is There an Effect? Dr. Shipley's study surveyed 3000 properties spread across 24 communities in Ontario. It showed no correlation between heritage designation and decreasing property values. It found that 59% of heritage designated properties eventually sold for more than similar non-designated properties, 15% sold for the same amount, and 26% sold for less. He reports that these results are consistent with similar studies in the US and Australia.
What historic events have occurred in the building?
The Church was Saskatoon’s premier performance venue until the building of the Centennial Auditorium (now TCU Place), hosting many of the most important performers and speakers to visit our city over the years, including Duke Ellington and Arthur Rubenstein. The historic events are too numerous to list, but one event stands out. The Church was the cradle of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. On August 7, 1923, Aaron Sapiro, an American pool expert, spoke to a crowd of 2000 in the Church, with Saskatchewan Premier Dunning chairing the meeting. Sapiro’s address is attributed with inspiring the Saskatchewan Grain Growers Association (SGGA) and the Farmers Union to combine their efforts to form the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.
How does preserving Third Avenue United contribute to Saskatoon’s future?
Saskatoon is growing, and the citizenry’s demand for quality cultural experiences is growing along with it. Urban planners, like Richard Florida, are broadly adopting the principle that successful cities of the future will be those which can attract the creative class. A beautiful, centrally located, 100 year old performance hall, with acoustics to rival the best of France would likely fit the bill.
Is it likely that the building would be awarded designation if the application were submitted?
Yes, based on preliminary conversations with the City of Saskatoon, and the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation. While the municipal designation might only provide $10,000 toward the roof repair, it would open the door to two other matching grants of up to $50,000 each. There is no guarantee that those grants would be received, but authorities indicate that the Church building would be an excellent candidate for them.
Can Heritage Designation be Reversed?Yes. Section 53 of the Heritage Property Act describes the procedure for an owner to apply to revoke heritage designation.
If the building is sold to a responsible developer, isn't that just as good as heritage designation?
No. That's because plans change and properties are sometimes sold many times before renovation or demolition begins, often due to changes in financing or economic conditions. Heritage Designation is the only real protection because designation is registered against the title of the building and therefore applies to all future owners.
Is a dedicated Concert Hall economically viable?
Yes. Our projected profit and loss shows a positive net cash flow even after substantial allocations to a capital reserve for improvements and repairs. We still lack the funds for capital improvements such as new bathrooms and stage, but believe we can operate with a temporary stage which we have acquired.