After the idea first surfaced at last month’s Forum on Public Buildings, the nonprofit organization that runs youth baseball in New Canaan on Thursday formally proposed using a disused town-owned brick structure on Richmond Hill Road for storage and meetings.
New Canaan Baseball officials in a May 10 letter to the selectmen and Town Council said the building known as the “Brick Barn” or “Richmond Hill Garage” would be more suitable for storage than a town-owned shed at Waveny and could offer more uses.
“New Canaan Baseball would like to formally express our interest in the above property,” NCBB Co-Presidents Rob Moore and Brian Rogers said in the letter, obtained by NewCanaanite.com. “We need to fully understand the financial impact and commitment of inhabiting the space but we are willing to explore the next steps.”
“We recognize that the Barn needs repairs and upgrading, and have seen preliminary estimates,” the letter said. “The main room on the ground floor provides us some raw space we could use with some modifications. We are cautiously optimistic the costs will be manageable over time and we hope that grant money coupled with some modest funding by the organization will enable us to utilize the space for our organization.”
Specifically, Moore and Rogers said, they’d use the building to store things like pitching machines, baseballs, catcher’s gear and first aid kits, board meetings, team drafts, light trainer and education and as a severe weather shelter.
The question of what to do about the building has lingered in New Canaan for years.
Town officials about 10 years ago decided to raze the building, but the high cost of contaminant remediation—said to be several hundred thousand dollars—prevented the actual demolition. Then the Town Council during the budget season just ended included $65,000 to knock down the building, leading some at the April 26 forum to question how the cost had dropped so dramatically—a question that fetched no definitive answers at the panel discussion.
The Mead Park Brick Barn, which was listed on the CT Register of Historic Places in 2016, was built by Standard Oil in the early 1900s. It’s the last remaining structure of the company’s industrial complex and perhaps the last of its type in the state. The town purchased the land surrounding the industrial complex in 1915 and then the complex itself in 1933. The complex has been used as a town garage and storage facility for the Department of Public Works for the past two decades.
The question of New Canaan Baseball’s proposed use of the building first was aired publicly at the Forum on Public Buildings. There, Town Council Chairman John Engel said the organization had not yet made a formal proposal to the town. Town officials including members of the now-disbanded Town Building Evaluation and Use Committee have said the building should be demolished unless individual or organization comes forward to fund renovation for town-sanctioned use with endowment for lifetime maintenance.
Some advocates for the building’s preservation have questioned why the town wouldn’t allow for more time—say, one year—for that individual or organization to materialize. Those in attendance at the forum also asked why there appeared to be such a rush given that the building costs the town nothing right now (as opposed to the vacant former Outback Teen Center, for example, which still costs $50,000 annually).
New Canaan Baseball in making its case that the garage would be a “perfect home” noted that in the 64 years of its existence it has invested more than $1 million into Mead Park projects. It currently is undertaking a major renewal of the little league fields.
By way of starting, let me say that I and many, many other residents/taxpayers/users of Mead Park have long been for taking down the brick building so that there is more open space in the park and an enhanced view of the park coming down Grove St. Also, many of us who want the tear down do NOT live near it.
This issue goes back to at least the Dick Bond (1st selectman) days when he tried to shove the idea of using the building as a home for the Old Faithful fire engine down our throats.
If Mr Moore and Mr. Rogers want to use the building for a baseball equipment “closet”, they might want to begin by doing a little PR for baseball in town. What comes to mind here is the continued use of the grass strip along South Ave between the Y and Saxe where baseball moms and dads have long parked in and amongst the NO PARKING ANYTIME signs and chew up the grass … which makes it look ugly on an entry road to Town, and waste of taxpayer money to reseed occasionally.
Also, when we hear talk about “it won’t ever cost the Town a cent” from potential users, one is reminded of the same promise that came out of the mouths of babes regarding the Outback in its early development stages.
Does anyone or group who has a use for this building have a BIG check in hand to restore it?
First Selectman Kevin Moninahan seems to be a man of his word and action. Let’s hope he takes the lead to remove this eyesore from a beautiful park soon.
George, two points: Put your money where your mouth is. You demand private money to support it. Where is your private money to tear it down? I will vote to remove it from the budget. I’ll look for your check instead. The town should spend that money co-investing in a new paddle court at Waveny.
NC Baseball has raised over a million for Mead Park. Their reputation is beyond reproach. You attack them? Don’t be ridiculous.
The arrogance of your reply is not surprising … at least Kevin M. is First Selectman and the CEO of the Town and not just the head of the TC.
If you want some of my private money for a tear down, all you have to do is go to the Town Hall and draw as much $$ as you want from the money we have contributed in terms of taxes for over 50 years. Be my guest.
In terms of baseball, we are certainly not opposed to the sport … just the arrogance (again) of parents feeling they can park anywhere, even where it is against the law … you ok with that? I think you also need correction regarding the “raised over a million for Mead Park. To be truthful, they may have raised that much just for baseball in Mead Park … but none of it went to tennis, plantings, or wildlife … did it?
Saying “you attack them” smacks of a Trumpism! We don’t fall for that.
And out of the blue, why should we taxpayers “co-invest” (which usually translates to taxpayers pay most of bill) in another paddle tennis court? Why not 2 international size squash courts … since the sport is growing, the NCHS has a great team , other residents love the sport, but all have to go out of town (god forbid) to enjoy the activity.
It seems that with our new First Selectman Kevin Moynihan that we are finally getting some strategic planning regarding how the Town should be run effectively and efficiently!