The town’s highest elected official said this week that a new suitor has come forward with a proposal to use the main house in Irwin Park, a public building that’s been vacant since municipal offices moved back downtown more than three years ago.
Though New Canaan has already obtained an estimate to demolish Irwin House, “a party came forward and wanted to talk to us about a new proposal,” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said during the Board of Finance’s regular meeting Tuesday at Town Hall.
“So we are evaluating that proposal and that is why I talked to John Irwin to see if he is willing to modify his deed restrictions to accommodate it,” Moynihan said, referring to the past owner or Irwin House. “So we will come back with a more concrete proposal for you to consider. Demolition is always the alternative.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what party has an interest in using Irwin House or for what purpose. Moynihan during the Town Council’s regular meeting Wednesday said that he would not give details about the proposal until it’s fully in hand.
“We do not have the details,” he told legislative body during that meeting, also held at Town Hall.
Moynihan also told the Town Council that Irwin was “amenable” to waiving some deed restrictions. Some of them restricted use of the property in specific areas.
This week, Board of Finance member Chris LeBris noted that during its meeting two months ago, officials voiced support for demolishing the building. That prospect also was raised at last week’s Forum on Public Buildings, when panelist and Councilman Penny Young said funds for demolishing the building could be included in the fiscal year 2020 budget that will be finalized in April.
The property at 848 Weed St. originally had been purchased by IBM founder Thomas Watson, Sr. for his country home. The property included 36 acres and included a 1920’s shingle-style house and barn—though the barn still exists, a fire destroyed the original house. New Canaan bought the property for $20 million in 2004.
Young asked during Wednesday’s meeting whether a change the Irwin Park deed would need to go back to the local electorate, since there was a town-wide referendum to purchase the property under the constraints of the deed published at the time.
Moynihan said he didn’t think so but would look into it.
The town in its fluid Five-Year Capital Plan (see page 55 here) has earmarked more than $800,000 for Irwin House through fiscal year 2024.