Christa Kenin

Recent Articles

‘You Literally Just Salivate’: Officials Evaluating Town Buildings See Potential in Waveny House

Known to generations of New Canaanites as the elegant host site of weddings, banquets and fundraisers, Waveny House also has largely untapped areas that could serve new uses, officials say. Recreation and public works officials have done a “phenomenal job” of clearing the 17,000-square-foot attic of post-prom props and other items that have collected there for years, according to Bill Holmes, a member of the Town Building Evaluation and Use Committee. “When we go up there, you literally just salivate,” Holmes said during the committee’s April 10 meeting, held at Town Hall. “The space is beautiful. There are skylights.”

Part of a two-person team studying the 1912-built town-owned building, together with committee co-chair Penny Young, Holmes added: “The notes we are making as we went through the basement, there are so many rooms with beautiful natural light from all the wells and depressions outside. Continue Reading →

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Seeking Less Costly Option, Town Council Rejects $550,000 Renovation Project at Vine Cottage

Saying they need to understand the building’s long-term purpose first and whether it could be passably restored (and legally occupied) for less money, members of New Canaan’s legislative body on Wednesday night unanimously rejected a proposal to renovate Vine Cottage for $550,000. The Town Council voted 10-0 against the bond issuance during its regular meeting. Councilman Christa Kenin said that though she appreciates the work that Architectural Preservation Studio, DPC put into a more comprehensive plan for the ca. 1860-built gabled structure, “I was a little surprised to see it on the agenda as a request for a bond.”

“It is a sweet house that needs a lot of work,” Kenin said, yet she’s a member of a recently appointed committee that’s been charged with making recommendations about town-owned buildings “and this is one of buildings that is at the top of our list to evaluate.”

“And I think even approving—whether it’s $550,000 or to come back to $100,000 before it falls to the ground—makes the assumption that we are going to hold onto this building, which may or may not be the case six months from now when we study the 44-plus buildings that the town is responsible for,” she said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. Ultimately, the Town Council charged New Canaan’s buildings superintendent with figuring out what would be the least costly project at Vine Cottage to make it inhabitable—by the town’s Human Services Department, its current occupant—for the next several months, until the Town Building Evaluation and Use Committee comes forward with a recommendation on what to do. Continue Reading →

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Newly Appointed Town Building Committee Elects Officers, Sets Priorities

A committee charged with evaluating the uses, condition and future needs of town-owned buildings decided Monday to start its work by figuring out what data points it must have to conduct an analysis and make recommendations. Ultimately, the work of the Town Building Evaluation and Use Committee is expected to help officials prioritize taxpayer funding for competing capital projects—a job made more difficult without a basis for comparison, according to Amy Murphy Carroll, a committee member elected as co-chair of the group during its first meeting. “There is a lot of information for all these buildings,” Carroll said during the meeting, held in a board room at Town Hall. “What I am seeing is that we have all these buildings—the Nature Center and whatever—but I don’t feel we have a good sense of how they are used.”

With institutional knowledge and documentation from Department of Public Works officials in hand—such as each building’s operating expenses and an estimation of future capital needs—two-person “teams” from within the seven-member committee could made field visits to the various structures and collect all the desired information, Carroll said. “So then we have ‘This is the state of our building,’ This is what it needs,’ ‘This is how we use it’ and ‘This is how the town uses it,’ ” she said. Continue Reading →

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Selectmen Appoint Committee To Study Uses and Capital Needs of New Canaan’s Public Buildings

Town officials on Tuesday dissolved a volunteer committee tasked one year ago with studying New Canaan’s use of Waveny House and appointed what amounts to a successor group that will carry out the same work but more broadly, evaluating and making recommendations on a number of public buildings. The Board of Selectmen during a regular meeting voted 3-0 to form the Town Building Evaluation and Use Committee “to evaluate over a six-month period the uses, physical condition and future capital needs” of structures such as the former Teen Center, Vine Cottage and Irwin Park main house. The newly appointed group will “not have to start from scratch” because enough studies are “in the book to lay the groundwork,” First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. “It’s important that we look at it holistically and everything is on the table. If there is a use that isn’t fitting for a certain building, we will take input from them. Continue Reading →

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‘The Town Needs To Invest a Little More’: Officials Call for More Funds to Maintain Public Parks’ Grounds

More maintenance is needed in New Canaan’s parks, particularly in landscaping the areas immediately around public buildings, and the officials in charge of them say they’ll seek more money in the upcoming budget season to care properly for the cherished properties. The Parks Department doesn’t have the funds needed “to adequately maintain the parks,” Sally Campbell, chairman of the Park & Recreation Commission, told members of the Town Council at their Nov. 16 meeting. “I just still can’t believe the conditions of the landscaping around our town buildings and around our beautiful town assets,” Campbell said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. “And we are fortunate that [Parks Superintendent] John Howe does an amazing job maintaining the athletic fields and maintaining our baseball diamonds—and those are kind of easier to maintain—but to maintain the landscaping around Lapham [Community Center], or in Irwin Park where the weeds are just all over the place or the town buildings, we just need more money.”

The comments came during a pre-budget season review of parks and recreation before the Town Council, the final funding body to sign off on New Canaan’s spending plan each year. Continue Reading →

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