As the Parking Commission debates the future of the Center School Parking Lot as parking for the new library, I would like to ask that all town governing bodies re-consider a proposal made last summer. It was suggested that the town trade the Center School Lot for the library property, and that the new Llbrary be constructed at the site of the former Center School.
The new library will easily fit in the Center School Lot with ample room for necessary library parking, and landscaping, and perhaps also room for some municipal parking. One level of underground parking either under the library or buried beneath a landscaped lawn should be possible. The library might even be able to generate revenue from leasing long-term parking space to commuters and people who work downtown.
The current library property could become a New Canaan Center for the Arts. The iconic 1913 Library core can be preserved and repurposed as the headquarters for New Canaan arts organizations such as the New Canaan Summer Theatre and The Glass House. A new “Town Green” can be created where the Summer Theatre can perform, as it has very successfully the past two summers, and attracted pre-and-post theater dinners to New Canaan’s many restaurants. The farmer’s market can be held on the green. There would be a dramatic sweeping vista of the new library from Cherry Street across a couple hundred yards of the great lawn. At no, or at least minimal additional cost, the library parking lots that currently enter/exit off Maple Street can remain in place to provide parking for activities on the green.
After the town acquired Waveny Park there were calls to demolish the derelict Carriage Barn and the former power plant. Fortunately, not-for-profit organizations, together with the town, stepped up to restore what is now the Carriage Barn Arts Center and the Powerhouse Theater. In a similar manner, the 1913 Library can be preserved and repurposed to serve the community. The professional historic preservation experts of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance have determined the 1913 Library to be in good condition and that the cost to restore the building for stand-alone use would be on the order of only $800,000.
Construction of the new library at the Center School Parking Lot and conversion of the current library property to a community art center and great lawn, with existing parking, would be a win-win for the interests of all community stakeholders. Let’s do it!
(Hobbs is a board member of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance)
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