Forum on Public Buildings

Recent Articles

How Involved Should Residents Be in Deciding the Future of Public Buildings?

Though their input is valuable, New Canaan taxpayers ultimately should rely on their elected and appointed representatives to make decisions regarding the future of town-owned buildings rather than put such questions to a public referendum, officials say. Structures such as Gores Pavilion, Vine Cottage and Irwin House “don’t exist in a vacuum” and their capital needs are part of “a very fluid process,” Board of Finance member and Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee co-chair Amy Murphy Carroll said during the recent Forum on Public Buildings. Responding to a suggestion that putting key decisions on public buildings to a ballot so that residents can determine “what they do with their tax dollars,” Murphy Carroll questioned “how that it would be all that productive to do that.”

“You elected the people on the Town Council, right?” she said during the April 26 forum, held at Town hall. “You elected your representatives.”

While Murphy Carroll and her fellow panelists—First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Town Council Chairman John Engel, and Town Council members Cristina A. Ross and Penny Young, who also served as committee co-chair—agreed that input from the community is greatly encouraged and appreciated, she and others stressed that residents should also trust them to make the best decisions for the town. Young said that there need to be more public forums allowing residents to express their opinions about how the buildings should be used. Continue Reading →

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Officials Mull Current Use vs. Cost of Town-Owned Buildings

As officials discuss town-owned buildings such as Irwin House, Gores Pavilion, and Vine Cottage, residents are raising questions about the town’s responsibility to maintain those structures and how their use can be measured—factors expected to help determine their futures. The topic was heavily discussed at last week’s “Forum on Public Buildings,” starting when a resident asked why, in the report issued in December by the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee, Mead Park Brick Barn is only being given a six-month window for proposals to be submitted and presented when all other buildings were given one full year. One panelist, Penny Young—a Town Councilman who served as co-chair of that committee—answered that new Canaan is “looking at very different economic times.”

“We are looking at every single line item in our budget with a critical eye and, also, looking at it from a perspective of ‘What’s the town’s responsibility and the provision of services and is the town’s responsibility the preservation of building, or is it community response to those buildings?’ ” Young said during the forum, held April 26 at Town Hall. She continued: “The Carriage Barn and the Powerhouse [agreements] were done years ago before those kinds of thoughts were being exercised. What is also being considered [for] those two building and others, like the Nature Center buildings, [is] how many New Canaan residents are utilizing those buildings? Continue Reading →

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Irwin House, Outback, NCPD: Residents Suggest New Uses for Town-Owned Buildings

What follows are three ideas for new uses of town-owned buildings that attendees at last week’s panel discussion presented during the two-hour Forum on Public Buildings. Designed as a follow-up to a comprehensive committee report released in December, the event was sponsored by the New Canaan Historical Society, New Canaan Preservation Alliance, Town of New Canaan and NewCanaanite.com. The panelists—First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Town Council Chairman John Engel, Town Council members Penny Young and Cristina A. Ross, and Board of Finance member Amy Murphy Carroll (Young and Murphy Carroll also are co-chairs of the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee)—responded to the suggestions. Swapping Irwin House for Additional Park Space

One resident mulled whether tearing Irwin House down completely to add more green space would benefit New Canaanites since the park itself is a more popular attraction. The panel agreed that the idea of tearing the house down isn’t completely off the table, but involves building a new structure in its place. Continue Reading →

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Officials Receive Proposal To Convert Irwin House into IBM Museum

New Canaan has received a proposal to convert Irwin House—originally the country home of IBM founder Thomas Watson, Sr.—into a museum dedicated to the iconic company, town officials confirmed Thursday. During the “Forum on Public Buildings,” Town Council Chairman John Engel—a panelist at the 2.5-hour event—cautioned that New Canaanites “can’t get ahead of ourselves on this.”

“There are a couple of things [to understand]: That is not the only proposal that’s out there, but it is the only proposal for Irwin [House]. I expect that we’re going to be getting proposals from lots of people. The first one came when a member of the Watsons and IBM approached the [New Canaan] Historical Society and said, ‘Is this possible?’ And when they asked Town Hall, Town Hall said, ‘We want to hear all proposals.’ And they said, ‘Great, can we walk the building with the IBM-Watson people to see if it’s even a fit?’ And that’s about as far as it [has gone].”

The comments came in response to an audience question at the forum, sponsored by the New Canaan Historical Society, New Canaan Preservation Alliance, Town of New Canaan and NewCanaanite.com. Designed to give residents information about many of the town-owned buildings whose future uses and ownership are in question, and to open up lines of communication between taxpayers and both elected and appointed decision-makers, it featured a panel that included Engel, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Town Council members Penny Young and Cristina A. Ross, and Board of Finance member Amy Murphy Carroll. Continue Reading →

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Public Buildings InfoSheet: Gores Pavilion

[Editor’s Note: The following has been prepared in advance of the “Forum on Public Buildings,” to be held 6:30 to 9 p.m. on April 26 at Town Hall (questions for panelists can be submitted here). Most of the information in the bullet points below is drawn from the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee report.]

Built: 1960 (architect Landis Gores)
Square footage: 1000 s.f.
Current uses: Art and architecture gallery, operated by New Canaan Historical Society
Committee recommendations: Renovation and maintenance remain the responsibility of the Historical Society, as per 2007 agreement. Written by Nancy Geary:

The building is listed on the CT Register of Historic Places and is itself a museum. Volunteers and staff from the New Canaan Historical Society serve as docents and it is open from May-November, Friday-Sunday 11 am-3 pm or by appointment. Hundreds of visitors come every year. Continue Reading →

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