NewCanaanite.com recently received the following letters from readers.
To the Editor:
The officers and men of the New Canaan Fire Department would like to thank our friends John, Judy and Gregg at Greggs Garden Center & Landscaping at 21 Grove Street for the donation of the planting for the front of the firehouse for Memorial Day. As we end our COVID hibernation, we look forward to this year’s Memorial Day parade in New Canaan, honoring our fallen heroes.
We will never forget their sacrifices.
John Hennessey, Fire Chief
We have the money and the imagination to save the 1913!
After many lively personal discussions and reviewing all three cost estimates for retaining/renovating the original 1913 Library, my opinion as a taxpayer and a 25 year resident is that not only is the 1913 eminently and affordably worth saving as a visual, architectural and historical landmark within our downtown (a literal “cornerstone”, in fact), but that, beyond that, the ideas I’ve heard around town for it’s potential ongoing usage have been both inspired and exciting.
Some of these ideas include:
- An exclusive and unique small event venue that can be used for library lectures, author visits and book signings, intimate music concerts, art showings, wedding receptions and other catered private functions for citizens and local organizations alike. The assumption is that most or all of these events would be paid, premium events (helping fund the New New and the 1913), draw all kinds of out of town visitors, and, upon conclusion, would spill any number of well-heeled attendees into the nearby stores and restaurants on a regular basis (unlike, for example, more distant private events at Waveny or the Carriage Barn).
- A public/private resource that can be utilized as a “catch all” office space and service resource for our own many local not-for-profits and/or self employed residents. Kind of a Kinko’s meets WeWork. My understanding is that if it is dedicated as primarily a NFP resource, it may also be eligible for state funding to help subsidize this usage.
- Much has been made of the needs of the local youth in these conversations, and while I’m a bit of a skeptic after the Outback investment, the 1913 could easily serve as a youth-centric resource for everything from local music and theatrical performances/art shows/lectures for our kids of all ages, house a counseling or organizational “safe space” for various teen affinity groups, etc. Again, it could be argued that these things can be executed at the schools themselves, but I’d imagine costs can be much better contained in the 1913, and, once again, all participants would be that much closer to the local commercial businesses, pre and post events.
- A brief conversation with the (very popular) local contractor who operates both the Apple Cart at Mead Park and the Waveny Pool food operation revealed great interest in discussing operating at least part of the 1913 as an easy access food destination for those using the library or enjoying the surrounding lawns or strolling town. In fact, this same operator said he has helped cater numerous events for and in the current NC library itself, and could further envision part of that space being the perfect catering/staging area for exactly the kinds of special events that the New New Library will be hosting in the future (and paying someone to execute in any scenario).
Obviously, the dream would be that the new New Library crowd also sees the value and appeal and revenue-positive offsets of these many types of ideas, and decides to further explore how the 1913 can actually enhance the overall mission and appeal of the New New, rather than being unceremoniously ground into dust.
Alternatively, I still believe that independent retention of the 1913 in situ is financially viable for any one of these multitudes of diverse, four season, revenue-generating, local business-driving uses cited above, and remains a far superior option to simply creating a larger piece of grass for purely aesthetic reasons – a lawn that is, in reality, much smaller in size than those of many NC homeowners, whose practical and cultural use by the town will be weather and season and space restricted, and which will be a certain cost drain to maintain and service vs. a potential 1913 revenue center (which could be either revenue neutral or profitable).
Trim the green, and save the 1913!
I understand the need for a new library building, but I struggle to understand why the library is so opposed preserving the 1913 building. They say that they’ve tried for years to incorporate the building in their plans. I believe they said they tried 12 different renderings to do so. So given the plan of Keith Simpson’s that incorporates the 1913 building so well, while leaving enough green to enjoy – why is the NCL so opposed to this plan? It was a goal of theirs for many years to try and incorporate the 1913 building. Many donors were expecting them to save the 1913 building. So why?
I have enjoyed our library with my family for the 30 years we have lived here. But I also enjoy the many other things our town provides and I don’t exactly understand why the library feels they have to be the be-all and end-all of the town. We have many fine parks and facilities, we all know the list of them. I worry that some of the libraries plans will wind up competing with other organizations in town. I don’t think they have to have a part in every activity imaginable. I also don’t quite understand the idea of putting up a tent and stage. Is that left up all summer taking up lots of space? Is it coming up and going down during the season? And if so, that’s very expensive as well. Is it necessary and wise in the downtown area in terms of noise and congestion?
The things I remember most fondly of our library were mostly the sweet and gentle low key events such as the Teddy Bear Picnic, and the summer reading programs. The incredible thrill of the midnight Harry Potter book party, and the wonderful book sales with a grand piano playing. The 1913 library was the perfect place for these events, and the most charming of backdrops on those occasions.
There’s a lack of logic in the NCL plan. They tried very hard to use the 1913 in their plan, so now here’s a great plan to use both the new building and saving the 1913 Library, so why not use it? The costs of the 1913 restoration will not be down to the NCL. Eager donors, together with the town, will cover the cost. Furthermore, the library also knows that the current zoning protects the 1913 library, so why are they not respecting that? And why are we ignoring the keen interest in environmental issues of today?
To quote Carl Elefante, former president of the American Institute of Architects, “The greenest building is the one that already exists”. We are supposed to be thinking this way in these more enlightened times. To paraphrase from something else I just read, older buildings tend to be built with higher-quality materials, and were also built to different standards. A century-old building is often a better long-term bet than its brand-new counterparts.
Save the 1913 Library please… there’s no going back if you don’t.
Patricia Funt Oxman
I want to write about the ‘taking’ of the Center School Parking Lot – just handing it over for New Canaan Library parking without fully vetting the consequence of such an action.
As I research this issue, I find that no hard stats were gathered to understand what effects this will all have when New Canaan’s commercial space comes roaring back….and it will! It amazes me that no accurate tracking of vacancy rates are taken by the Town. Many large decisions around important commercial business spaces are being made without without first researching and deliberating fundamental facts.
This hard-fought-for parking lot for the business community is just being given away. A true future business disaster. All those empty stores along the south side of Main Street (by Connecticut Muffin) have no parking. There are many other buildings throughout Town that are similar with no on-site parking (i.e., Old Union Trust Building next to Town Hall). Renting these office spaces has just gotten 100 times harder with a throw back problem of where employees will park. With this type of decision making no wonder we have had a decade of economic malaise. We can do better than this.
One other side note about the Center School lot. During this disaster of a decision, it is being thrown out by Library leadership that the lot can be expanded over the ample green space the lot provides – or can even be decked.
People should be reminded by those who attended the original meetings decades ago on this issue that great care was given to create a buffer from the commercial area of town to residential. It is a subtle but highly important Town Planning element that makes this entrance into our Town so inviting. I can’t believe the neighbors will welcome the urbanization of their area. They only have to look at the forever-destroyed Park Street entrance into Town culminating with The Vue to realize a push back effort will be highly warranted. Town planning at its worst.
I’m for a better library but with better planning. We should especially save the important historically and economically important 1913 Library.
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