FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is happening at Knox Church in Stratford?


The congregation at Knox Presbyterian Church in Stratford has confirmed that the church will pursue an ambitious plan to renovate and redevelop portions of the historic downtown church. In partnership with the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective (SACC), Knox has initiated a planning process that will see areas of the church converted to much-needed space for local performance and cultural programming, in addition to ongoing church worship programming and community outreach. Knox will also consider options for socially-responsible housing at the back of the church property. Added November 3, 2020




Why is Knox Church pursuing this new plan?


The cost of maintaining this beautiful church is a significant challenge for the congregation at Knox. A recent assessment indicated that a multi-million dollar investment would be required just to maintain the building.

Knox was looking for a solution that would cover costs, offer continuing worship options to the congregation and sustain the church’s considerable community outreach and service.

With the full support of the congregation, Knox has entered into a partnership with the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective (SACC) that will deliver the following benefits:

  • Sustain the worship options for the congregation
  • Preserve a significant heritage site on Stratford’s main thoroughfare, Ontario Street
  • Provide accessible and centrally located performance space that can be used for a variety of arts and cultural purposes
  • Augment revenue sources that will support ongoing operations on the church property
  • Sustain community outreach and support activities
  • Improve the supply of socially-responsible housing in Stratford

The project will adhere to the faith values of importance to the congregation and is well-aligned with the community service goals of SACC. This is a realistic decision given the times and the growing costs of maintaining this beautiful building.

Added November 3, 2020




What kind of analysis is this decision based on?


Besides working together to ensure a convergence of needs and opportunities and commonality of vision, both Knox and SACC have conducted their own analyses to inform the decision.

Knox has conducted its due diligence via the following activities:

  • Creation of a Task Group to study options in 2016
  • Building Condition Assessment (March 2017)
  • Consultations with the congregation, the Presbyterian Church of Canada and other community players
  • Final analysis that concluded that the status quo was not sustainable due to small congregation and growing cost of maintaining this large, historic church

The SACC has conducted its due diligence through the following activities among others:

  • Formation in October 2016 based on discussion about Stratford’s arts and culture venues and needs
  • Annual surveys of member organizations regarding their needs, audience numbers, budgets, and other important factors (2017, 2018)
  • Ongoing discussions with the City of Stratford
  • Conceptual drawings created by local architect
  • Feasibility study in 2019 conducted by TCI Management Consultants, Toronto
  • Discussions with consultants and Trinity Centres Foundation

Added November 3, 2020




What is the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective (SACC) and why has Knox partnered with them?


SACC represents more than 30 local artistic and cultural organizations and numerous independent artists that came together in 2016 with a shared focus on the development of a community-based performance space.

LEARN MORE ABOUT SACC →

Added November 3, 2020




How is the Stratford Arts and Culture Collective (SACC) involved?


SACC has helped Knox develop a vision for a significant redevelopment of the Knox site, one that hinges on the:

  • Significant potential for the development of performance space inside the existing sanctuary space within the next several years
  • Landmark, central location
  • Shared values
  • Exploration of various financing and governance models

Added November 3, 2020




Is the Church’s heritage being considered as these changes are introduced?


As Knox moves forward on this new initiative, the heritage value and history of the church building and its role in Stratford will be honoured.

The landmark architecture at the prime corner of Ontario and Waterloo Streets will be preserved. Also, to be protected and enhanced are the impressive stained-glass windows and the pipe organ.

Added November 3, 2020




How can Knox afford this plan?


As the project progresses, options for revenue generation will be explored. Expected sources are:

  • Core partnerships (e.g., with SACC for performance space)
  • Room rentals (e.g., basement banquet hall)
  • Housing rentals
  • Other development and government sources
  • Other fundraising

Added November 3, 2020




Will the congregation still meet and use the church?


The church building will continue its historic role at the heart of the City and Knox will remain a valued faith leader in this community

Added November 3, 2020




What will happen to the not-for-profit organizations that operate out of the church?


Knox’s outreach programming and the support it provides to community service groups will continue.

Added November 3, 2020




Was there an option to just close the church?


This was the least-favoured option and motivated efforts to find new solutions and partners.

Added November 3, 2020




Is it true that a lot of churches are facing the same financial problems?


There are 27,000 faith buildings in Canada. At current rates of closure one-third could close in the next ten years. The pandemic has had a considerable impact on faith communities as they have not been permitted to conduct in-person worship and other religious services. It is feared that the pandemic may have sped up these impacts considerably but no new data are available.

To learn more about best practices and experience with church conversions in Canada, VISIT COMMUNITYSPACEFAITHPLACE.ORG →

Added November 3, 2020




Why has the Trinity Centres Foundation (TCF) been engaged?


TCF is Canada’s best-known expert consultancy for congregations seeking to manage the cost of their infrastructure while delivering core services for their communities. TCF is currently working with four other church congregations in Ontario and a municipal region of collaborative churches and can offer access to a significant amount of best practice information.

In this initial stage, TCF will help Knox assess financial options and constraints (i.e., funding sources); property valuation; and the potential for redevelopment of the site for various purposes (church, housing, performance space).

LEARN MORE ABOUT TCF →

Added November 3, 2020




What is the future vision for the church?


The redevelopment will accommodate a place for worship and community outreach, an arts and culture centre and socially-responsible housing.

This exciting vision will demand a lot of commitment and support, but when finished, this unique project will:

  • Preserve a heritage landmark
  • Sustain a place of worship
  • Grow a strong financial foundation
  • Provide socially-responsible housing
  • Serve our community’s needs
  • Inspire creative artists and audiences

Added November 3, 2020




What is socially-responsible housing?


There are many versions of socially-responsible housing across Canada. Our discussions have focused on the needs in Stratford for housing that matches the financial situations of a variety of citizens. These may include below-market-rate or affordable housing; units appropriate for specialized client needs; and market-rate housing. Units may be owned or rented. We will be able to share more information about this exciting opportunity at Knox as our analysis progresses.

Added November 3, 2020




How can the public get more information about this project?


There are many ways to stay connected to our progress. Keep an eye on this website for updates and subscribe to our regular e-newsletter.

SUBSCRIBE →

You are always welcome to talk to any of the volunteers associated with this project or send us an e-mail at KnoxNextStage@gmail.com.

Added November 3, 2020




Will there be an opportunity for individuals and community organizations to get involved in any way?


Knox and SACC are in the process of discussing potential community education and outreach initiatives.

Added November 3, 2020




Will the Knox Next Stage initiative involve a partnership with a developer?


The Knox project team has more work to do to finalize the details of the type of development that is best for the Knox property, including the space behind the church. As we have explored possibilities during this preliminary phase, we have consulted several developers so we could benefit from their expertise and make sure that all feasible options are considered. At this time, consultations are also proceeding with our neighbours and their agents, since the Knox property abuts several other properties. Once Knox, SACC and TCF have reached consensus on a development plan, a selection process will be initiated to identify potential partners as we move to the next phase. Added November 19, 2020




What kinds of development options will the Trinity Centres Foundation explore on behalf of, and in collaboration with, the Knox Next Stage project team?


In a recent update, TCF reported that various development strategies could be pursued. These include:

  • Partnering with a developer to purchase the yellow-brick portion of the church to develop a residential component at the back of the church. Funds from this sale would be used to revitalize the Knox congregation and create a performance space in the existing sanctuary.
  • Partnering with a developer or other organization to redevelop the entire Knox property with faith, arts, housing and community service objectives in mind.
  • Other rental options.
  • Lease-back options.
  • Self-financing the redevelopment via a major fundraising effort, with or without anchor donors.
  • A unique social investment option, used by other churches and non-profit groups, that would involve a “community bond” (raising funds via “social purpose capital”).

TCF has indicated that some combination of these options is always a possibility. TCF will assist the Knox Next Stage team with the due diligence associated with each option, and the related risks and benefits.

Added February 8, 2021