First Selectman: Police Building Ultimately Could Be Sold, Converted into Senior Housing

If a plan to purchase a building downtown to house both the New Canaan Police Department and Board of Education materializes, the town likely would look to sell NCPD headquarters on South Avenue for conversion into senior housing, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said last week.

New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

Opened in 1927 as the original New Canaan High School, the police headquarters could “become senior housing like the Schoolhouse Apartments, but not necessarily income-restricted,” Moynihan said Thursday during a briefing with local media, in response to a question from NewCanaanite.com.

“We have talked to people already, developers” regarding such a project, Moynihan said.

He added: “We want to monetize that building, not tear it down. Have it repurposed, probably for housing.”

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

Moynihan has said the town is “very interested” in purchasing an office building at Elm and Grove Streets for NCPD and the Board of Ed. The “Unimin Building,” as it’s known, as 258 Elm St. would need about $2 million of retro-fitting work (mostly a second elevator) in order to accommodate those agencies, according to the first selectman. It isn’t clear how much New Canaan would pay for the Unimin Building, which was appraised last year at about $8.2 million.

It also isn’t clear how much the NCPD headquarters at 174 South Ave. would fetch for the town. The town for the current fiscal year had budgeted $500,000 to start the process of renovating NCPD with an eye on installing the Board of Ed on its upper floor, a plan Moynihan had endorsed in the past. 

Yet the full renovation of police headquarters would cost another $7 million to $8 million, under an architect’s estimate that is part of New Canaan’s five-year capital plan, Moynihan said.

That makes the purchase of the Unimin building attractive, he said.

“The reason this transaction is desirable is that the net cost would be lower than just renovating the South Avenue building,” Moynihan said. “So not only do we get a better facility and we save $300,000 a year on rental payments that the BOE is spending.”

New Canaan must renovate the Police Department in any case, and such projects in recent years have cost towns such as Darien $17 million, he noted. 

“Police departments apparently are very expensive,” he said. “So if we can do a transaction that houses both the Board of Ed and the Police Department, and is a net cost lower than renovating the South Avenue building, that would be a home run. I like home runs.”

In case New Canaan seeks to create what state officials define as “affordable housing” at NCPD, similar to the Schoolhouse Apartments to the north, it could be owned by the town and operated by a nonprofit organization, according to Moynihan.

Yet “ideally” the town would “not remain the owner of the building,” he said.

“But under the condition that the integrity of the structure” would be preserved, he added.

“We wouldn’t want it torn down,” Moynihan said. “We wouldn’t sell it to someone to tear it down.”

New Canaan High School was founded in 1927. Today it is the police department.

Prior to the opening of NCHS on South Avenue in 1927—the same year that Karl Chevrolet was founded (and sold 34 new and 38 used cars)—New Canaan students attended Stamford High School. Just four years after NCHS opened, the town opened its first middle school next door, in what is known as the Schoolhouse Apartments. At that time, New Canaan’s elementary school, Center School, also stood on South Avenue, just a few blocks closer to town. It’s now a parking lot that bears Center’s name.

6 thoughts on “First Selectman: Police Building Ultimately Could Be Sold, Converted into Senior Housing

  1. In moving the PD to the corner of Elm and Grove you need to look at the problem which will happen with traffic. If the PD has an emergency and needs to go south on Grove and the train which looks like it travels 1 mile an hour over the Grove Street crossing with traffic back up will delay any response. Also if the PD needs to responded up Elm to Park Street you will have the same congestion, traffic light and heavy traffic there and again at Park and Cherry Street. Leave the PD where it is.

  2. Hmmm. Here’s another option to maybe consider? Instead of moving anyone into 258 Elm St, tear that soulless building down because it’s ugly as sin. Then, fix-up the amazing, charming, New Canaan-feeling building that everyone likes at 174 South Ave and keep the Police Department there for the rest of time. It’s a wonderful thing that our First Selectman wants to be fiscally smart (although, as the article and other letters point out, the money side of this seems to be still pretty much up in the air?). However, financials shouldn’t rule the day when trying to solve town issues. Like the Library, Town Hall, churches and many other historic buildings around town, the current Police Department building is beautiful. And that matters. It’s sets a tone for the department as well as the town. The building at 258 Elm is just god-awful ugly and feels like a parking lot with walls and windows. Hey, there’s an idea – tear the current eyesore down and replace it with a parking lot to help with Lumberyard issues and the 15 spots downtown is going to lose? Saving money is important. But saving our town’s character is more important.

  3. What about response time to NCPS? Nchs, Saxe, south and East are all very accessible to the current headquarters in the case of an emergency. In addition, speeding down South where children walk to school everyday and back is deterred by the presence of the NCPD. The current location is strategic for the town and assures that our schools can be responded to in a timely manner.

  4. I do not support the idea of moving the NCPD out of it’s stately, iconic building. Its presence along the main artery into town is both symbolic and reassuring.

  5. Financially speaking the idea has some merit but when you factor in response time for NCPD in an emergency it’s a deal breaker. At times the Grove St train crossing can be blocked for upwards of 15 minutes when trains are changing tracks.

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