New Vision hopes to make landmark downtown church into a music venue

Last year, The National performed at New Vision United Church for a concert benefiting Syrian refugee efforts. Now the church wants to be a regular live music venue.
New Vision hopes to make its downtown landmark a 1,000-seat music venue, in addition to being a church. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

In a time when congregations are dwindling and increasingly vacating Hamilton's stately old churches, New Vision United Church has a new idea to keep its downtown landmark alive — having it double as a 1,000-seat live music venue.

The congregation hopes to renovate and re-brand its spacious 149-year-old building near the Macnab bus terminal, formerly Centenary United Church, as a home to mid-size entertainment events.

It will still house the New Vision congregation and its services, said Rev. Ian Sloan. But Hamilton's music strategy calls for a live music venue about their size. The National performed there last year for a concert benefiting Syrian refugee efforts, he said, and it worked well.

New Vision United Church has already hosted some music events, such as a fundraising event with The National last year. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

This fall, the church will get another chance to showcase itself. Daniel Lanois will play on Nov. 18. Bassist and multi-instrumentalist Jim Wilson and drummer Kyle Crane will join him.

It's a promising new use for a landmark heritage building on Main Street East in downtown Hamilton, said Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor.

"They've been working for five years at reinventing themselves, and they need to be saluted in maintaining this heritage building downtown," he said.

New Vision, formerly Centenary United Church, will be 150 years old next year. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Plus, "it's a very cool live music venue."

The plan came to city hall this week when Farr convinced city council planning committee members to speed up the church's heritage assessment. The designation wasn't due to happen for at least three more years.

But the designation will put the group in line for related grants. It'll also inform what it needs to preserve as it does the necessary renovations.

"It's too early to say what the configuration will look like," Sloan said. "But the heritage piece is really important for that decision."

New Vision United Church already houses the NGen youth centre. The Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra practices there too. Its congregation is a merger of the former St. Giles and Centenary United Church groups.

As for Lanois, tickets for the Supercrawl Productions show go on sale June 15 at 10 a.m. through Ticketfly and Dr. Disc. Tickets are $29.99 in advance and $40 at the door.