‘Not the Most Adaptable’: Question of Future Use Surrounds Former Outback Teen Center Building, Now Town-Owned


First Selectman Rob Mallozzi stood behind the long kitchen counter at one end of the cavernous upper floor of the former New Canaan Outback Teen Center on Friday afternoon, hours after the 15-year-old structure had reverted to the town’s ownership following failed operation by a nonprofit organization.

One stool at the counter appeared to have been broken and a pizza oven removed from the food prep area at Outback, once envisioned as an alcohol- and substance-free hub of local teen activity.

“On my walk through today, it hits me again that this is a very unique space—one that is probably not the most adaptable to different and various uses, and it gives me even more pause about next steps,” Mallozzi said.

Just what to do about the now-town-owned, rather oddly configured and centrally located structure, built 15 years ago—several years prior to the economic downturn, a headier era of corporate giving and donor dollars—is a major question facing New Canaan.

In the short term, a dumpster is in order, according to the first selectman: A broken bench, collapsed ping-pong table, worn sofas and disused files lay about the split-level floors, while other fixtures—such as for lighting, movies and sound—appear to be in good shape.

Mallozzi is calling for an exhaustive inspection of the vacant structure that includes the kitchen, HVAC system and elevator.

“We need a full building assessment to understand what the town needs to put into this to make a building that could be used for any number of different uses,” he said.

Asked how municipal officials would approach the question of its future use, Malozzi said: “I would sit down with the Town Council and Board of Finance and try to determine the best use for the building, but not until we have a real good idea of what the cost is to get this building in shape.”

Over last 10 decade, New Canaan taxpayers supported Outback with an estimated $230,000, according to the Mallozzi.

Even with those funds, the board running the organization found itself unable to self-sustain.

It’s been one year since the Outback Teen Center closed, unable either to make enough money to run itself or convince town officials to support a re-imagined, broad program that went beyond serving just teens.

In January, New Canaan resident Bob Albus, founding president of the Outback, in an interview with NewCanaanite.com introduced the concept of what he called ‘The Hub,’ designed to be a re-imagined use of the building, and described revenue-generating activities such as tutoring and babysitting built around an “anchor program” involving development disabled adults. A board formed around him and set about garnering wide community support.

Yet an early fundraising campaign barely raised $2,500—much of that from the board itself—and after town officials said last year that a $50,000 annual commitment of taxpayer funds was not realistic, they made $10,000 available to The Hub, contingent on a workable business plan that never materialized.

Albus later presented to the Town Council a plan that appeared to lack basic details of revenue and feasibility. It was later revealed that Outback for years had failed to file with the IRS its required annual 990 forms as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.

Mallozzi has said he intends to tap the Department of Public Works’ building superintendent to look at the structure for an early analysis.

16 thoughts on “‘Not the Most Adaptable’: Question of Future Use Surrounds Former Outback Teen Center Building, Now Town-Owned

  1. What would it cost to tear it down? Maybe there would be salvage. The town could use the extra parking spots. Once it’s gone there will be one less thing to worry about. What New Canaan needs more than anything is a heavy dose of REALISM and a serious effort to dispose of nonessential assets. LIKE THE FINANCIAL HOLE KNOWN AS THE PLAYHOUSE!! Politicians have to stop making bad decisions at all levels of government. Let’s start here.

  2. The Kiwanis Club underwrote a recording studio in the Outback. As a Kiwanis Club member, I sincerely hope the contents of that asset will be salvaged and re-used.

    • I have learned that the donated ($5K) recording studio from the Kiwanis Club is safely in place at St. A’s with the agreement that the community will have access…..guess that is all we could have hoped for…

  3. It is a shame that the building likely can’t be effectively moved. If that is an option, it should be explored as it could work at the HS, Saxe, Kiwanis, etc.

    • I suggested that The Outback be moved to the Y but I was told that the Y didn’t want it. As for Kiwanis Park, most of the park is nature trails with a Nursery School and playground at the entrance. There is a large parking lot that is filled cars for campers and beach visitors. Later in the year the Girl Scouts use the park and the Exchange Club fills the parking lot with trees and cars in mid-November until late December.
      The back area of Kiwanis Park is concentrated with campers and beach equipment. The building would stick out like a sore thumb in such a small area. I think vandalism would also become an issue.

  4. One solution is that this building be used to house the Board of Education. Put as many employees of the Board of Education in this building as space will allow. It will make operations easier being adjacent to Town Hall, especially since the Board of Education is going to be sharing best practices (certain employees and one computer system for accounting purposes) with Town Hall. This move would save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  5. Not filing an exempt entity tax return is not without consequences. A mandatory $5,000 a year penalty. There is a one time exception however not applicable here when there are repeated instances of compliance.

  6. This is an opportunity for our community. It is time to make long-term decisions that have a positive impact on multiple fronts. Here are some facts: 1) 15 years ago local donors contributed money to erect this building to benefit teens on the former site of a town garage building. This site may have been a plus being right downtown, but it is also a negative right in the middle of our busiest municipal parking lot. 2) For over 50 years, parking has been identified as a crucial need of our downtown. 3) It makes no sense trying to fit something else into this building in its current location when parking is such an issue. 4) Various organizations in NC, particularly related to youth, are always in need of meeting space.

    Thus, moving this building, even if there is significant cost, is logical. The question is where?

    I suggest that the far end of Dunning Stadium at NCHS is a logical location, between the end of the current bleachers and the scoreboard. Better yet, a basement floor could be constructed that would contain locker rooms accessible from the Dunning turf, and the current building could be moved on top with access from the NCHS parking lot. The building could serve as a meeting space for youth sports organizations, NCHS clubs, NCHS athletics, and the public at large. The lower floor locker rooms would eliminate the need to open the entire NCHS building for night or weekend games or events. The original Outback donor’s legacy would be honored as the building would still be serving the youth of New Canaan.

    The town of New Canaan would gain valuable additional parking directly behind the new town hall. The town could reasonably cover the one-time cost of moving the building (where else could the town buy that kind of parking and how much would that parking cost?)

    The ongoing operation of the facility would fall to the HS, which may find it much more economical to operate a smaller self-contained building for evening or weekend meetings and events rather than opening the entire HS building when not needed.

    A collaborative effort can produce win-win-win results for New Canaan. Let’s have an open, honest, and forward thinking discussion on what is truly best for all concerned.

  7. Great idea Leo. I contributed at the time it was built and would love to see it used for the kids. It would be a great asset for the Sports teams.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *