Irwin House, the 1963-built brick structure that sits on a hilltop in a public Weed Street park of the same name, is to be renovated and rented out to a handful of nonprofit organizations seeking new homes, the town’s highest elected official says.
Vacant since the municipal offices that had occupied it during the renovation and expansion of Town Hall moved out three years ago, Irwin House would see its first floor used as a “nonprofit center,” according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.
The organizations expected to move in and pay a below-market rent so that the town covers its maintenance and utility costs would include Staying Put in New Canaan, New Canaan Community Foundation, New Canaan Land Trust and New Canaan CARES, Moynihan told reporters during a press briefing held Aug. 23 in his office.
“The idea would be that they would have the synergy of being not-for-profits together rather than isolated in little offices,” he said. “They’d share conference space, they’d share a lunchroom. It seemed like a very logical thing thing to do. We either have to find a use for that building or tear it down. There are advocates for tearing it down. I advocate using it.”
The new use at the 8,000-square-foot Irwin House would require approval from the full Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Town Council. It would have to be “cleaned up” first, with painting and carpeting, Moynihan said, “but it looks like it’s going to work.”
The nonprofits would pay about 25 percent under market rate rents and the second floor or Irwin House would not be used, he said. Its first floor is ADA-compliant.
Referring to the expected sale of three Pine Street buildings that now house Staying Put and other groups, Moynihan said: “We are not really competing with the private sector because the Pine Street space is coming off of the market.””
Asked what Weed Street and area neighbors would make of a new active use of Irwin House, Moynihan said: “It’s such a small footprint and the indication so far is the neighbors would not be a problem.”
The property known as ‘Irwin Park’ originally belonged to IBM founder Thomas Watson, Sr. and the family had built a summer home there that burned to the ground and was replaced by the structure now in place. New Canaan bought it in 2004 for $20 million.
Last year, the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee recommended that New Canaan find a use for Irwin House, such as a future home of the Board of Education, or else think about whether paying for its maintenance is worthwhile. Another suggestion emerged that it be converted into an IBM museum. While Town Hall was being renovated, municipal departments including Health, Building, Inland Wetlands and Planning & Zoning occupied its first floor. Parts of the Department of Public Works occupied the converted garage as recently as last year.