Decision on March 12

By March 12 the congregation will have decided between two competing offers to buy the building. We believe ours is the best because we are a financially sustainable non-profit. Below are six reasons why we believe a non-profit solution is best for the congregation and for Saskatoon:

1. A non-profit can justify discounted rent for important under-funded cultural groups. Our business plan accommodates discounts for groups like Saskatoon Children’s Choir, El Sistema, and others.

2. A non-profit is not motivated to sacrifice heritage for profit. Our heritage mission is to preserve both the building and a vibrant congregation within it.

3. A non-profit is motivated to work cooperatively, rather than competitively, with other important cultural venues. Our mission is to fill Saskatoon’s need for a 1000 seat cultural venue without having a detrimental effect on other important cultural venues such as The Broadway Theatre, The Roxy, and TCU.

4. A non-profit may be motivated to create paying jobs for performers independent of the profitability of those performances. Our mission is to be a cultural incubator by enabling the artistic economy in Saskatoon.

5. A non-profit can bring important international performances to Saskatoon even when those performances do not generate a profit. Our mission is to expose our audiences and young artists to the world’s best performers, such as Tafel Music, Jan Lisiekcie, and others.

6. A non-profit board of directors, with deep roots in the community, can be relied upon to act in the best interest of the community; whereas a for-profit owner may have unknown and changing motivations. Our board has cumulatively founded or helped lead over thirty community non-profits.

Church to be First in Canada

Third Avenue Centre is thrilled to announce that Third Avenue United Church will be the first Canadian building digitally archived in the CyArk world heritage database. This is made possible by a partnership between Stantec, Tourism Saskatoon, CyArk and Third Avenue Centre.

Third Avenue United Church will be among 100 major world historical landmarks already archived by CyArk, an international non-profit organization dedicated to digitally preserving the world’s cultural heritage sites, the most recent addition being the Sydney Opera House. Other CyArk preserved sites include Pompeii, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the RMS Titanic, and Mount Rushmore. CyArk projects the Saskatoon building will receive 100,000 web hits per year from cultural heritage fans around the world.

The inclusion of the Third Avenue United Church building in CyArk’s online archive is an incredible way to showcase the best of Saskatoon architecture and culture to the international community. In addition, it provides a way to preserve an exact 3D digital record of the building for years to come should anything ever happen to the building.

“This is why we support the concept of Third Avenue being owned and operated by a Saskatoon-based not-for-profit organization, namely Third Avenue Centre,” said Todd Brandt, President and CEO of Tourism Saskatoon. “It is vitally important that we secure the future of this building as a landmark performance hall in Saskatoon and as a significant tourist attraction in our community and province.”

CyArk has been featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine and boasts partnerships with prestigious institutions such as the World Monuments Fund, the American Museum of Natural History, U.S. National Park Service, U.S. National Science Foundation, and Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. CyArk is also partnered with educational institutions including Columbia University, Stanford University and the University of Florence, as well as media properties Google, PBS, and Wired magazine.

We are honoured by the support we have received from Stantec and Tourism Saskatoon. We hope to convince the congregation that we are the best bidder in the RFP and we think support like this really helps make our case.

Great Progress – But Time Is Running Out

We are proud of our progress. Since summer we have partnered with the U of S, Stantec Consulting, Saskatoon Tourism, Great Places, and The Partnership. We have assembled a great board of directors who have collectively founded or helped oversee more than 35 Saskatoon non-profits. We have become the home of Amati String Quartet, Metro Jazz Band, Saskatoon Youth Orchestra, and Saskatoon Children’s Choir. We have programmed many great shows including the successful Summer Proms and Tafelmusik, which has been described as “The world’s greatest baroque orchestra.” We plan to announce four shows of comparable stature for the coming season. We have received hundreds of grassroots donations from people who believe in our vision, and we have contributed significantly to the congregations finances. We continue to develop important partnerships, and we plan some exciting announcements soon, but time is running out. The congregation will decide between us and the other bidder in early January and it’s not clear who they favour. The differences are stark. Please come to the Tafelmusik concert Wednesday Nov 28th at 8pm and show your support.

Saskatoon's Carnegie Hall

Third Ave can be for Saskatoon what Carnegie Hall is for New York. That may sound like a stretch, but we are already booking some of the same talent. We have already twice programmed international star Jan Lisiecki, who has performed for a full house at Carnegie Hall. In November we hosted Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, which has sold out Carnegie Hall twice.Tafelmusik has been described as the World's Greatest Baroque Orchestra. For the upcoming season we plan to announce four shows of equal caliber. These international performers prefer intimate, yet grand venues like Third Ave. They would be reluctant to come to Saskatoon to play anywhere else.

Third Ave is a natural performance hall. Prior to the building of the Centennial Auditorium (TCU), when Duke Ellington or Percy Grainger came to town, they played at Third Ave. It has a towering pipe organ, an expansive ceiling, seating for 1000, and phenomenal acoustics. Jan Lisiecki describes the acoustics as better than the Salle Pleyal in Paris. Still, the venue needs improvements such as a new stage, lighting, sound, and bathrooms.These improvements will require money, but fortunately we have time. Thanks to University programming, we can cover our operating expenses for years, using a temporary stage if necessary, until we find our Carnegie.

Our Proposal

Third Avenue Centre (TAC) has submitted a proposal to the congregation to convert the church into a world-class performing arts centre. The University of Saskatchewan has offered to become the anchor tenant in the space if the congregation accepts TAC's proposal. TAC has also now assembled a board of directors composed of recognized leaders who will help guide future operations. The new board includes Jan Baxter-Jones, Dave Denny (Chair), Dr. Ann Doig, Mark Fachada, Angela Kempf, and Ray Penner. Councillor Charlie Clark has agreed to join our board upon winning the RFP. Under the proposal, TAC would lease the premises from the congregation for two years and assume all costs for operating the building, while accommodating the congregation’s continued use of the space for Sunday services and other functions. During that period TAC would assemble the funds to purchase the building for appraised value.

Our key partner will the the University of Saskatchewan, with the College of Arts and Science agreeing to be our new anchor tenant. They make our cash flow positive, and even enable us to contribute funds to a capital reserve for repairs and improvements. TAC plans to make major improvements to the space including adding new bathrooms, lighting, sound, modified seating, and a new roof. It also plans to add a new large multifunction stage, suitable for a large symphony orchestra, but flexible to be used for drama and dance. We will invite people from symphony, dance, and drama to participate in designing the stage because we envision this facility as Saskatoon’s premier centre for all the performing arts.

We intend this building to be a venue for world class artists, but also an incubator for developing our arts in Saskatoon. Our mission as cultural incubator aligns beautifully with the goals of the U of S, and also with the City’s new Cultural Plan. As a non-profit, TAC will endeavor to provide discounted use of our main stage to local performing groups, which are sometimes under-funded. We also envision using the basement for U of S performing arts classes, with the smaller basement stage used for performances by smaller local developing artists and coffee houses.

The grand, centrally located building is ideally suited as a performance center. It has fantastic acoustics, a wonderful pipe organ, and great sight lines. Moreover, with seating for an audience of about 1000, it is just the right size. This building fills a niche for performances too large for the Broadway Theatre, but needing something more intimate than the much larger TCU Centre. Cities around North America have recognized the need for 1000 seat venues and are building them at a price of $50,000 per seat or more. Ours is already built, and with acoustics and class the new buildings would struggle to match. It makes sense to reuse these grand old central churches instead of building new, which is exactly what other Canadian cities like Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa have already done.

With revenues that already surpass expenses, we can operate even without major capital donations. However, we will need donations to eventually purchase the building and to pay for the new bathrooms, lighting, sound system, and a new flexible stage. We are optimistic because donors appreciate that we are already financially self sustaining. Furthermore, donors appreciate that we are a proven commodity. People already love this heritage building for performances.

World's Greatest Baroque Orchestra Comes to Third Ave

Tafelmusik has been described as the world's greatest Baroque orchestra, and Third Ave is the ultimate place to see it. The show, November 28th at 8pm, is a fully theatrical staged production of the Galileo Project - the second last performance ever of the concert experience that has sold out all around the world. 18 orchestra members, 1 actor playing Galileo, and a projection screen with images from the Hubble Telescope to match music soaring through the cosmos create a concert experience you won't ever forget. Tickets available at Persephone Theatre. Price range: $25-$57

Amati Moves to Third Ave

The Amati String Quartet is moving their performances to the best acoustics in town. Their first concert, on Sept 15th celebrates their 10th season in a program that features the music performed at their first concert ten years ago. Haydn, Brahms, and Dvorak.

These original Amati instruments date from the 1600's. Their unique structure contributed to their incomparable sweetness of tone, fulfilling the requirements of chamber music in the Baroque era.  Come hear how they sound at Third Ave!

Proms Generate Over $15,000

We want to send out a big "Thank You" to all the musicians and donors. The Summer Proms are now done and they were a great success. We received over $15,000 in donations at the door from a total audience of about 1500 during the nine evenings.Half of the donations went to the musicians. We used the other half to pay the rent to the congregation and to pay $4,000 toward the repair of a main water pipe which broke this summer. We even had some left over for our next project. Most importantly we continued to demonstrate that this building can be a vital self sustaining cultural centre for Saskatoon. We demonstrated that musicians and audiences love this building and that it can have a positive economic impact for our cultural community, generating $7500 for our local musicians.

Stantec 3D Imaging Complete

These are some of the amazing images generated by Stantec's 3D laser scan of the building. The scan is so detailed users could zoom-in to examine a penny which may have been left on the floor during the scan. This data will be used as historic documentation of the building and it can be used by future owners to plan modifications to the stage, bathrooms, or other areas. In the coming month we will install it in Google's 3D warehouse so that international users of Google Earth can also explore one of Saskatoon's greatest buildings.

Fundraising Success

Thanks to all those who have made donations and attended recent events at the church. Our successful May 17 Forum drew between 300 and 400 people (even though it was held on a weekday with several competing events). Attendance was similar for the Danika Loren / Fireside Singers concert Friday which generated a profit of almost $7,000. The show received four standing ovations and seems universally praised by all those who attended. The building was perfect for the concert: intimate, yet grand - and the acoustics were phenomenal.

Recent press has revealed a seemingly universal love for this building. This in turn has raised the prospects of partnerships within the community to ensure we have it for many years to come. There is much work ahead, but early signs are hopeful. Thanks for your continued support and please watch for upcoming events.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Why is Heritage Preservation an Environmental Issue?

Historic buildings have embodied energy in them that is lost if a building is demolished. Embodied energy is a measurement of energy used in the process of building, from the extraction of raw materials - such as harvesting trees - to the final installation of the finished material - such as framing lumber and carpentry. For example, if a new 50,000 square foot commercial building were built to replace the Church, on average the new building would embody 80 billion BTU, the equivalent of 576,784 gallons of diesel fuel, enough to power 1534 loaded tractor trailers from New York to LA.

Over their lifespan, historic buildings illustrate one of the best sustainable characteristics: durability and reparability. Durable buildings require less embodied energy to maintain and repair. Old buildings are often easier to maintain and repair due to lower technology, high craftsmanship, and better quality materials such as stone and wood.

In addition, demolition and waste have profound adverse impacts on our landfills. A recent University of Washington Study reports that building-related construction and demolition debris constitute about two-thirds of all non-industrial solid waste generation in the United States. When we reuse our historic buildings rather than replacing them, less debris ends up in landfills and our environment is healthier. Recycling materials is often suggested as a positive outcome from building demolition. However, recycling demolition waste is energy-intensive and expensive.

Many people believe that old buildings always have higher utility costs and thereby waste energy. While this is often true for old buildings built after 1940, it is not usually true for even older buildings. In fact, data from the U.S. Department of Energy indicates that commercial buildings constructed before 1920 actually use less energy per square foot than buildings from any other decade up until 2000. This is because they were designed before an era that relied on mechanical heating, cooling and shading devices, and they utilized simple design solutions that kept human occupancy and comfort levels high. These buildings were designed to take advantage of natural daylight, ventilation, and solar orientation - the very characteristics that are being employed as “sustainable” design attributes today. According to a study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, our older commercial building stock - pre-1920 - performs at an average of 80,127 BTU/sf while new green buildings from 2003 perform at 79,703 BTU/sf.

It's ironic that in Saskatoon, while we may obsessively recycle our cans and papers, we often turn our backs on opportunities to achieve much greater environmental benefits by recycling our massive buildings.