Draft Agreement Between Town, Library: ‘Viable and Funded’ Plan for 1913 Building Will Forestall Demolition 

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The original 1913 building will be incorporated into New Canaan Library’s widely anticipated rebuilding project so long as the Planning & Zoning Commission has received and approved a “viable and funded” plan for its preservation, according to a draft agreement between the library and town.

New Canaan Library was built in 1913.

The library and town both acknowledge that the estimated $35 million project calls for demolition of the stone-exterior structure “and that a group of concerned citizens has expressed interest in preserving the 1913 Building,” according to a copy of the “Public-Private Partnership Agreement” obtained by NewCanaanite.com. 

“Subject to prior action by the Commission or the Town Council resolving the future of the 1913 Building, until completion of the new Library building, the Library will not take action that will preclude preservation of the 1913 Building,” according to a 26-page draft of the agreement last revised Friday. “If, by the time of completion of the new Library building, a viable and funded plan for preservation of the 1913 Building has been presented to the Commission for approval, then the Library will incorporate the preservation of the 1913 Building into the Building Project.”

Proposed rebuilt New Canaan Library. Rendering courtesy of New Canaan Library

Officials have said construction of the new library will commence this spring and continue for about two years.

Though demolition of the existing building—limited by its failing, costly physical plant, among other structural problems—always was going to wait for the new library to go up, the wording in the draft agreement represents the first time that a plan for preservation of the 1913 structure has been formally spelled out. NewCanaanite.com last year filed a public records request for the draft agreement that the town denied, a decision subsequently appealed to the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (the appeal has not yet been heard).

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan during a budget hearing in January referred to the need for those seeking to preserve the 1913 building to come up with a formal use and funding for it. Library officials have said the building doesn’t fit into plans for a future facility that best serves the community, and have planned for a green space overlooking Cherry and Main Streets while offering that those who want to preserve the building can plan for and fund its relocation. Those advocating for preservation of the building say it’s historical and important to New Canaan’s character and heritage.

The draft agreement calls for the town to contribute $10 million toward the rebuilding project. The library so far has raised $16 million in pledges and gifts, it said. The agreement also includes notes on the project, such as that the Planning & Zoning Commission is to approve a parking plan, use of 76 spaces in the Center School Lot for library patrons for an annual fee to the library that starts at $10,000, makeup and responsibilities of a building committee, appointment of ex-officio members from town government to the library’s Board of Trustees, indemnification and insurance.

A special meeting of the Parking Commission is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday regarding use of the Center School Lot.

Monday regarding use of the Center School Lot.

Here’s a video reviewing the proposed new library:

New Canaan Library from Centerbrook Architects on Vimeo.

8 thoughts on “Draft Agreement Between Town, Library: ‘Viable and Funded’ Plan for 1913 Building Will Forestall Demolition 

  1. This wording in the MOU represents an invitation for the 1913 building to be saved subject to certain very fair and reasonable conditions. It is a welcome development for so many of us who have long been hoping that 1913 can remain in its present location and can continue contributing to the lives of New Canaan families. I believe it to be a worthy and achievable goal.

    • Thank you for submitting your comment, Keith. I would just underscore here for you—and others that may be reading the article—that as the headline and article say, this is a draft agreement. Further, my understanding from library officials this morning is that the 1913 building-specific language in this draft wasn’t reviewed (let alone approved) by the library as one party in this ongoing negotiation prior to the draft being made public. Thank you again.

      • Mike, will you be discussing any other aspects of the MOU in future articles? It important for all taxpayers to know what we are signing up for. For example: Does the Library need to hit a target for funds raised in the bank before the taxpayer $10 million donation is given to the private non for profit?

        • If you’re asking whether we would publish a series of standalone articles about this document, I would say no. We didn’t cover the MOU with the New Canaan Athletic Foundation in that level of detail, because I think some of this just gets a little esoteric for our readership and coverage plan. That doesn’t mean we aren’t covering public meetings and hearings on this major project. Hope that answers your question.

  2. The impressive Vimeo video mentions the “convenient parking” for library users across the street from the library, but it also shows a car exiting what appears to be underground parking at the new building on the corner of Main and Maple. If there is parking at the library (as there has always been) why do they need to allot 76 spaces at the Center School lot for the library? What will happen to the parking at the library that was above ground? Who will be using the parking under the new library? There are 173 spaces at the Center Lot. If 76 are reserved for the library (44%) will that create a problem once we are back to pre-Covid activity? Have any studies been done? The meeting of the Parking Commission this afternoon should be interesting.

    • As of 12:30 pm today (2/22/2021), the Centerbrook Architects website still says the new library design will include “underground parking for 90 cars.” I don’t believe this is still the case, is it?

  3. A building plan with no apparent on-site parking that expects 800 plus visitors a day? How is that possible? To take 76 spaces from the Center Street lot does not seem viable given the well documented municipal parking shortage that already exists. What becomes of the popular farmers market that uses that lot?

  4. As this article notes, the MOU agreement between the town and the library is still in draft form and the version that was released by the town over the weekend had not been previously reviewed by the library trustees or our attorney. The library is working closely with the town to finish the MOU as soon as possible and we greatly appreciate their input and cooperation. Initiating the public process is a welcoming start to finalizing the town’s commitment to this important project. As in any negotiation, many points of clarification and discussion remain and, hopefully, will be resolved shortly. In the interim, we look forward to presenting our exciting plans for the new library to the various town bodies and P&Z in the weeks ahead.

    Bob Butman
    President, New Canaan Library Board of Trustees

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