The former Knox Presbyterian Church building at 73 Larch Street is getting a second life as an events venue slated to open sometime this summer.
Sudbury entrepreneurs Dan Guillemette and Liana Bacon recently purchased the 10,000-square-foot building, which was posted for sale after shuttering as a church last October.
A local media report of the day cited a decline in parishioners as the main reason for its closure after 95 years.
“It’s very clear that the people who occupied the space took care of it with great love,” Bacon told Sudbury.com, adding that it’s in great shape for its age.
The bulk of the building opened in 1927, while a section in the back was added on in the ’50s.
“The bones are really good,” Guillemette said, adding that aside from some water damage from this winter which will need to be fixed, the balance of the building is in good shape, with solid foundations and structure.
The two were inspired to purchase the downtown church after attending shows at smaller events venues in Toronto, such as the Axis Club, formerly known as the Mod Club. Venues such as this create a unique experience Guillemette said he’s keen to create a localized version of.
“Having that kind of venue that’s more intimate, has nice architecture, is what we’re thinking,” he said. “They’re always interesting venues, it’s a place to meet. Place des Arts has that, absolutely, but their reach is broader and has a larger capacity.”
The historic building has a great deal of character, he said, citing a 25-foot ceiling as a key feature which adds a grandiose feeling to the venue.
“It gives you a more open feel to the space, and when churches were designed, the church itself was a speaker because there were no speakers in the space, so it was designed to reverberate and have optimal sound just by itself.”
There’s room for office spaces and flex space in the back, Guillemette said, adding that they’d been reaching out to local organizations to see if they’re interested in making use of it.
“We’re thinking about all the potential uses for it, because there can be so many,” Bacon said, with the venue able to host live music, stand-up comedy, punk shows, speaking engagements and myriad other activities.
“There’s even opportunity for events that people could rent the space for, there’s just a ton of opportunity and possibility for this space,” she said.
“One of the things that people are kind of jazzed about is that there’s something to do, and there are things you can come downtown for that are different.”
The events will give people more things to do downtown, which Guillemette, a board member of the Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area, said will benefit area businesses by keeping people downtown longer, and help business owners cross-promote each other.
With places of worship carrying different building code requirements for washrooms than event venues, Guillemette said they’re currently tapped out at a 125-person capacity, which they intend on increasing with the construction of additional washroom facilities by the time they open sometime this summer. There’s a potential to reach a capacity of as much as 600, but the owners are in the midst of determining the cost versus gain of adding more washroom facilities.
The new owners will receive keys to the building in June, at which time they plan on hitting the ground running.
Guillemette, a partner at Centreline Architecture, is one of three partners who own the building, which has undergone significant renovations in recent months.
Since then, Guillemette said the speakeasy has been consistently at-capacity on Friday and Saturday nights, and the café is slated to expand to the main floor of the building sometime in May.
“Rather than having a 300-square-foot nook, it’s going to be a 900-square-foot space serving full lunches,” he said of the café.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.