The widely anticipated “green” taking shape at Main and Cherry Streets is about eight weeks from completion, according to New Canaan Library Executive Director Lisa Oldham.
The hardscaping of the green has been underway since the library-owned 1913 building shifted 115 feet to its new location at the western edge of the library’s privately owned property, and new footpaths along Cherry Street have been poured.
“You’ll notice they’re double width, so there’s one width of footpath similar in size to what was there before, from the street inwards, and then another as deep again as that, which is where the benches will go,” Oldham told NewCanaanite.com.
“And then seven tons of stone has been delivered for all the stone work that’s going to be done in the next month. Planting is supposed to start this week, if the weather cooperates, and they’ll be starting on the Main Street frontage. There’s a lot of shrubbery and other types of plantings that have to go in. And then they’ll be working around the site so that the people doing the hardscaping and that work are in one place and the people doing the planting are in another.”
The stone work is largely for a new retaining wall along Cherry Street, she said.
“Along Main Street, we were able to preserve the original stone wall, but on Cherry Street, it was in not nearly as good a condition, and so that’s come out,” Oldham said.
Additional extensive stonework is planned for the green itself, Oldham said.
The creation of the green marks a major phase of the library’s overall project, following the opening of the new building in February.
Through the moving of the 1913 building and creation of the green, the library itself has moved forward with its popular programming. The organization’s Literary Luncheon—this year featuring Geraldine Brooks, author of the novels “Horse” (2022) and Pulitzer Prize-winning “March” (2005), among others—sold out within hours of tickets going on sale.
That’s a testament to the demand in New Canaan for the kind of high-quality programming that the library is able to do, said the CEO Capital Campaign Major Gifts & Endowment Ellen Crovatto.
The library raised $17 million on its own prior to coming to the town for its generous gift of $10 million, and Crovatto has overseen a multi-pronged public phase of fundraising that has encompassed The Chair Project and an art installation of tiles in the Children’s Room and garden, and the library’s stretch of the New Canaan Pollinator Pathway.
A formal capital campaign for the green also is to be announced, Crovatto said, as the library has already awarded some naming opportunities in its quiet phase. That includes a legacy terrace that will be named for the late Bailey Stewart, Crovatto said, and 15 benches that will be available for naming—nine placed along Cherry Street and six on the legacy terrace. The benches themselves are made of cast aluminum (recycled) and sustainable hardwood harvested from managed forests, and personalized plaques will be affixed to them.
“The last part of it is really a campaign for the public to participate, for people who may not have an affinity for the library but certainly have an affinity for outdoor green spaces and the kinds of programming that can occur outside the building,” she said.
The green itself will be both active and passive space, Oldham said.
“A passive recreation space where people can just be,” she said. “There’ll be lots of different types of seating. You can sit outside reading a book. We expect that parents, having been to Story Time, might go out on the green with their children after a Story Time. Kids after school might stop and have a snack before they come in to study. We’ll be actively programming the space as well, lots of ideas under development in outdoor programming opportunities that will start next spring.”
Asked about plans for the 1913 building, Oldham said, “The library is really embracing looking forward and having discussions with the community about how to best use that space looking forward.”
Those interested in learning more about donating toward the green or naming opportunities for benches may contact Ellen Crovatto at email@example.com.