Police Station Project: Selectmen Approve $9,700 ’Building Envelope Consultation’ Contract


The New Canaan Police Department on South Avenue. Credit: Michael Dinan

Though the town already has spent tens of thousands of dollars analyzing projects for a future police station, New Canaan’s highest elected official now is pursuing yet another study of the existing building on South Avenue.

Hamden-based Hoffmann Architects Inc.’s $9,700 “building envelope consultation” is “a necessary undertaking to understand the cost of renovation and perhaps the wisdom of a renovation,” according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.

According to the contract, Hoffmann Architects met last month with Moynihan and a member of an internal team he assembled to study proposed other locations in New Canaan for a future police station—such as a baseball field at Saxe Middle School or the Waveny woods behind New Canaan High School—for a “walkthrough” of the existing police headquarters. There, they focused on areas such as the building’s foundation and front elevation, “which exhibited signs of water infiltration,” Hoffmann’s senior business development manager, Robert Delagrange, said in the contract proposal.

The consulting work to be done by Hoffmann Architects will include reviewing previous reports related to the building—including several from just last year, such as cost estimates, presentations from architectural firms, a masonry report and a recommendation regarding exterior water repellant—conducting an on-site “visual investigation,” examining existing waterproofing, submit a “brief report” that has the company’s “opinion as to the cause or causes of identified problematic conditions” and “opinion of corrective action” and cost, Delagrange said.

Moynihan and Selectman Kathleen Corbet voted 2-0 to approve the contract during the Board of Selectmen’s March 8 meeting. Selectman Nick Williams, a steadfast proponent of keeping the police station where it is, was absent.

Moynihan long has said the police station should be rebuilt elsewhere in New Canaan. Three years ago— after turning down a proposal to create housing for seniors at Weed and Elm Streets (where an application for affordable housing recently was filed)—Moynihan said that at least one developer has shown “serious interest” in converting the police station into senior housing.

Town officials have questioned both the financial and political viability of relocating police headquarters. After the appointed town body that oversees the Police Department issued a memo in February recommending that a future police station—whether renovated or built anew—remain where it is on South Avenue, Moynihan said he was “amused.”

Even as the town was hiring two separate architectural firms in February 2021 to evaluate options for a future police station—options that would be presented late last year to town funding bodies, who voiced a preference for renovating the current building—Moynihan was suggesting that the cost of such a renovation is higher than people realize. During a selectmen discussion of the police station situation in October, Moynihan said, “Quite honestly there are reasons not to renovate that building, and those will be discussed over the course of the next few weeks,” though he did not elaborate at the time.

What happened with the two architectural firms that the town eventually hired for their analyses—Berlin-based Jacunski Humes Architects, LLC and New Britain-based Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc—was that one worked with the appointed Police Department Building Committee to study possibilities at the current building, while another worked out of the public eye with a Moynihan-assembled team of municipal workers to study options for building anew elsewhere. Under state sunshine laws, groups of employees are not required to hold public meetings, though the secrecy surrounding the Moynihan team’s findings emerged last summer as a source of frustration for some Committee members. 

During last week’s selectmen meeting, in response to a question from Corbet about the contract with Hoffmann Architects, Moynihan appeared to point to the very committee that had complained about being kept in the dark.

“To keep building the Police Department building project moving forward, the Building Committee had discussed the need for a deeper dive into the envelope,” Moynihan said. “We had an initial expert analyze the potential issues with a 96-year-old building with respect to the brick and foundation leaking, et cetera, but in order to proceed with a renovation of that building we really need a deeper dive to understand the cost of that, as people begin to make that analysis of the cost of one project versus another. So that will be done in time for the Building Committee to meet. [Committee Chair] Bill Walbert has rescheduled the meeting for the third week of March, I believe.”

Moynihan said the Hoffmann Architects is “a necessary undertaking to understand the cost of renovation and perhaps the wisdom of a renovation.”

“This firm is rather expert in this area,” he said. “They were recommended by both of the architects working on the Police Department project. They are working on U.S. Capitol dome project now. So they are very expert in determining the issues and the cost of addressing old building.”

Town officials have discussed the need to renovate the 1927-built Police Department on South Avenue—originally built as the first New Canaan High School—for many years. The cost originally was pegged at $5 million, then $7 million, then $10 million and, more recently, in the $14.7 million to $18 million range.

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