Even though Leaside United Church (LUC) is still officially closed due to pandemic restrictions, the freshly renovated building is on display in a print brochure recently mailed to the congregation, and in an online brochure and two videos available on the church’s website (leasideunited.org).
The renovations focused on specific areas to improve the functionality and welcoming appearance of the building for both the congregation and the community.
First, for accessibility, a ramp and railing were installed in the chancel and there are also new accessible washrooms, improved parking and entrance areas. Energy-efficient boilers, lighting systems and appliances provide environmentally friendly changes.
Modernizing upgrades include new lighting and audio-visual systems in the sanctuary, two new kitchens, a new floor and ceiling in the gym and more contemporary décor. In addition, the church’s appearance is now more inviting thanks to the bright glass entrance on Millwood, new signage and more open landscaping.
At this time, LUC is also launching its New Beginnings Legacy Campaign. Graham Lute, co-chair of the Building Fundraising Committee, explains that this is “a capital campaign to allow for the proper completion of the renovation” to supplement the $3.3 million spent over the past 15 months. The additional funds will be used for furnishings and finishing touches such as landscaping and outdoor furniture.
Right now, you can see the extensive changes in the two videos on the website. The videos were produced by Anthony Regan, a Leaside videographer, broadcaster and musician, who has produced many videos including those for the Leaside Sports Hall of Fame and 100th anniversary celebrations. The shorter video shows a series of scenes with captions, while the longer one walks viewers through the building with voiceover commentary about the changes and their benefits.
Anthony says it was “an honour to help out with such an impressive and historical community project.” He was also struck by the thoughtful blending of heritage and modern features. One such example is in the new reception area featuring wainscotting from one of the old pulpits topped by a rainbow oil painting by Graham Lute, which sums up the church’s mission with the message “Love for All.”
The video highlights many of the renovated and newly created spaces designed to be used by both the congregation and community. For example, with its new lighting, audio-visual system and flexible seating in the chancel, the sanctuary will serve as an enhanced venue for services as well as concerts, recitals and lectures.
Downstairs, the gym’s upgrades are aimed at clubs, sports and children’s groups. Since this area is adjacent to the new kitchen, it can also accommodate dinners and other events. The Jean Bruce Gallery nearby was designed as a space for exhibits by local artists, receptions and meetings. Food and wine may be enjoyed in any of these areas.
Community groups are already taking notice. Rev. Emily Gordon says she cannot wait “to explore together all the ways the building will better allow us to care for one another and our wider communities.