First Selectman: New Canaan ‘Very Interested’ in Acquiring Downtown Office Building for Combined Police, Board of Ed Headquarters

New Canaan is “very interested” in acquiring an office building on the corner of Grove and Elm Streets, the town’s highest elected official said Thursday, and installing the Police Department and Board of Education there within a few years. 

The Unimin building on Elm Street in New Canaan, as seen from the Lumberyard Lot. Credit: Michael Dinan

Known to many as the ‘Unimin Building’ after the company that owns and occupies it—a company that is now is part of an Ohio-based business called ‘Covia’—the structure has been looked at by an architect “and it is very feasible to move both the Police Department and Board of Education” in, according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.

The town likely would purchase the 28,000-square-foot building at 258 Elm St. and lease it back to Covia while the company relocates its employees over a period of up to three years, Moynihan said. 

Those three years “will give us plenty of time to plan and probably begin some of the construction for the police department in the garage while they are in the building,” he said, referring to installation of jail cells.

The front of Unimin at 258 Elm St. in New Canaan, as seen from Elm Street. Credit: Michael Dinan

“They are definitely moving and the town is very interested in acquiring the building and we have to first of all complete the process of the due diligence of whether it works,” Moynihan said in response to a question from NewCanaanite.com during a media briefing in his office that also included representatives from New Canaan News and Patch.com.

It would cost New Canaan about $2 million to “retrofit” the building for its new municipal uses, Moynihan said. That work largely involves installing a second elevator, he said.

It isn’t clear what New Canaan would pay for the building in question. It last was appraised at about $8.2 million, tax records show. Unimin first put put its building on the market in October 2016. The industrial mineral producer has said it employs 100 to 110 people there.

The new plan would negate the need to renovate the 1926-built Police Department while its officers and command staff operate out of their South Avenue headquarters—a costly and logistically difficult process, Moynihan said—and also would mean that the Board of Education could move into superior office space rather than a renovated upper floor at NCPD (as the first selectman has suggested in the past).

“It’s a very modern building, totally up-to-date,” Moynihan said of the Covia building, which overlooks the Lumberyard Lot. 

“The space for the Board of Education is beautiful,” he said. “It’s better than what they have.”

Moynihan said town officials will meet with the district soon to discuss the matter. 

Meanwhile, the Board of Ed in March formed its own committee that’s studying options for a future headquarters for the New Canaan Public Schools administration. At its June 27meeting, the BOE Headquarters Committee finalized a set of districts’ offices to visit and is poised for site visits, according to meeting minutes. 

Moynihan had said in May that he was “intrigued” by the prospect of purchasing the Unimin building. He said Thursday that the reason he could speak on the matter now is that the employees of Covia have been notified of the change.

7 thoughts on “First Selectman: New Canaan ‘Very Interested’ in Acquiring Downtown Office Building for Combined Police, Board of Ed Headquarters

  1. Guess we didn’t vote for fiscal responsibility in New Canaan’s last town elections. Sure seems like ‘tax and spend’ Democrats have moved from Hartford to New Canaan with this proposal/near proposal, as well as the nonsense about acquiring the Valley View house with dubious historical value, as noted an article or two below this one.

    Would someone pls lay out the business case to demonstrate the $ and cents benefit of taking an $8 million + property off the tax rolls and borrowing $2 million for renovations, never mind the inevitable other costs, while saving rent paid by the BOE on its newly renovated offices , presumably at our expense, and avoiding some reasonable amount of costs for renovating the existing police HQ. And, while you are at it, would you also pls address what would become of the current police HQ. Perhaps housing for residents who can’t sell their homes and/or pay the resulting property tax increases from all of this spending?

    Maybe a couple of FOIA requests are in order, followed by new elections?

  2. First of all I think our first selectman is doing a great job – I don’t like this idea though – leave the P.D. alone. We the tax payers have paid lots of tax money to re-due/fix the P.D. over the years – to now start from scratch would be a waste of money.

    Can someone total (maybe Newcanaanite.com) the amount we have spent on this building including all the tech put into the building (budget line items) in the last 20 years? – I think this number will surprise people.

  3. The building inventory was just completed showing we have too many buildings. Why doesn’t the Board of Ed move into Vine cottage (and purchase back the Red Cross Building for extra space which would ALSO to protect critical parking that the Town Hall current uses on the back Red Cross lot!) or the old Teen Center near the Town Hall? It would be great to have the Ed department centralized downtown in either of these buildings as the BOE wields most of the Town Budget.

    There is a large lot behind the current police station – seems like there is a developer with an eye on the Police Station building and that is what is driving this? This is poor governance. This is poor Town Planning – considering the HUNDREDS of affordable housing units the Town is required to build in the next few years. If the Town also wants Senior Housing there – the town should NOT sell the property (it’s historic – the old high school and jr high school) but expand the Senior Housing the town owns in building next door in School House apartment for AFFORDABLE HOUSING USE BY NEW CANAAN senior residents. A developer wants to increase PROFITS not affordable services to the Town. Look what happened to Merritt Apartments!!?? – that is going to be a disaster for traffic downtown with no affordable benefit to seniors. It also removes another option for affordable housing for the Town. And there are few!! In the Town’s control – we can put a dent in the HUNDREDS of units we need to comply with State regulations but get TRUE affordable senior housing – School House apartments II .

    See report: http://newcanaan.info/filestorage/69/15089/Building_Report_12-03-2017.pdf

  4. Further – before the Town Leadership squanders the additional Schoolhouse apartment opportunity by relocating the police station and selling the Town Property to a developer – this is approximately what New Canaan is facing to comply with 10% AH rule in future:

    According to P&Z Plan – New Canaan will build SEVEN 80 UNIT Housing Complexes – the size of new 3 story Mill Pond
    project all over New Canaan over the next 30 years to reach the 10% quota (or fourteen 40 UNIT complexes) assuming they
    keep getting 3 year moratoriums – it’s in the NYT article:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/26/nyregion/in-wealthy-pocket-of-connecticut-an-innovative-approach-to-affordable-housing.html

    This means SEVEN 80 UNIT Housing Complexes – the size of new 3 story Mill Pond project. This will be done over New Canaan over the next 10 years according to P&Z’s plan

  5. Background to the SOBERING statistics above: New Canaan needs about 556 more affordable apartments to meet the 10% quota (10% of 7551 homes = 755. We currently have 199 apts (2.64%) as of
    2015. This means SEVEN 80 UNIT Housing Complexes – the size of new 3 story Mill Pond project. This will be done over New Canaan over the next 30 years according to P&Z’s plan. Source: pg 3 http://cdm15019.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p128501coll2/id/409155 affecting the character of the Village.

    Once NC reaches it’s quota – developers cannot use AH to
    change zoning laws to their needs not the community’s needs.
    3 Sample Losses from the AH
    threat: 1. 10 Acre Mill Pond Park (Avalon) 2.
    Historic Jelliff Mill was demolished and expensive”cluster
    housing” (10 homes in 8 structures) were built on 2 acres
    after the 1755 home (before the US revolution) was
    destroyed. The Town lost a lot of history and no got
    affordable housing at Jelliff Mill (actually the town asked
    the developers to contribute $200,000 to the AH fund
    – but this type of payment to get zoning changes may
    encourage bad behavior). 3) Merritt Village zone-busting high density changes that could have dramatic unintended consequences.

    2 other solutions in addition to School House II. 1. allow affordable accessory apartments all thru town – much less impact on
    town character and benefits individual home owners – (if the 10% quota is followed vs challenging it – see option 2). 2. Apply to the State apply for “10% Quota Exemption” based on size and character of the town, etc.

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