Carleton announces $2M donation for Dominion-Chalmers from Crabtree Foundation

The first confirmation of private support for Carleton University’s purchase and development of the Dominion-Chalmers United Church complex is the announcement of a $2 million contribution on Tuesday by the Ottawa-based Crabtree Foundation. ‘

“We are very grateful to the Crabtree Foundation for this gift,” said Carleton University Interim President Alastair Summerlee in a media release.  

The university’s board of governors approved the purchase of the church in May. It will be used by Carleton students and faculty and as a community culture hub, the release added.  

“We see this as an opportunity for our family’s Foundation to support the Ottawa arts community,” said Sandra Crabtree, on behalf of the foundation. “We are appreciative of Carleton’s vision for the space and the university’s commitment to helping the local community. Dominion-Chalmers has many wonderful facilities and our family is excited at what the future holds. My husband and I have attended concerts there and know how much the venue is loved by music enthusiasts and performers.” 

In the build-up to the eventual purchase, university officials have said that private funding for the Dominion-Chalmers project was in place.  The release on Tuesday afternoon indicated more announcements will follow. The purchase price of the building is $6.65 million. The university has also received $5 million from the Ontario Infrastructure ministry.  

Work on the new space is expected to start soon with classes expected to begin by January 2019.

The students from music, drama and other disciplines will use the space. There is also expected to be some exhibition opportunities for the Carleton University Art Gallery.

“This is an amazing time for Carleton,” Summerlee said.

The Crabtree Foundation is a private family foundation established in Montreal by Harold Crabtree. It has been in Ottawa for 30 years. Several of the arts organizations who use Dominion-Chalmers have been supported over the years by the foundation.

Former Carleton president and vice-chancellor Dr. Roseann Runte had identified the need at the university for a performance space of the size of Dominion-Chalmers in a strategic plan she prepared after joining Carleton. Near the end of her tenure, she initiated an investigation of the possible purchase and that path has been pursued since. The church itself was suffering under the heavy burden of a massive building and a shrinking congregation so the partnership was a welcome one for both parties.

Carleton has no space on its campus that seats more than 400. 

Dominion-Chalmers United Church, exterior.

At 37,000 square feet and seating for 1,000 along with potential rehearsal and classroom space, Dominion-Chalmers fit the bill for the university. The church is well known as a venue for concerts and festivals hosting more than 70 events each year. The congregation will continue to meet in the building.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.