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Highgate United Church

Planning for change

Address: 87 Main Street West, Chatham-Kent
Built: 1917-18
Closed: June 2010
Adapted: Ongoing

A community effort to preserve Highgate United Church arose after the nearby Erie Street United Church in Ridgetown was demolished in 2009. Well in advance of the closure, a group of local volunteers formed the Mary Webb Centre and approached the congregation. The Mary Webb Centre Committee was formed to act as stewards for the church and to ensure its adaptive reuse and the continued relevance of the facility in the community and region. The name was chosen to honour one of the founders of Highgate: Mary Webb Gosnell.

The group contacted the Ontario Heritage Trust for technical assistance and advice. A special workshop on the adaptive reuse of the building and a brainstorming session were facilitated by the Trust during the 2010 Ontario Heritage Conference. For more information

Highgate United Church closed at the end of June 2010. The Mary Webb Centre developed a business plan for acquiring and adapting the church as a cultural and community centre. In December 2010, the Mary Webb Centre acquired the building from the United Church and, since then, the Mary Webb Centre has hosted a number of events, including concerts, poetry readings and art and photography exhibits. It also serves as a community gathering place. The amphitheatre seating plan makes the former church an ideal space for performances.

This case study speaks to the importance of early action, multiple partnerships and a solid business plan. This example also illustrates the value of establishing good relations with the owner, rather than being adversarial or confrontational.

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