Study: New Canaan Library Can Raise $25 Million for Rebuilding Project


New Canaan Library can expect to raise $25 million for its renovation project, officials said Wednesday, and the new facility is expected nearly to double the amount of current usable space.

Though that figure—supplied in a fundraising feasibility study completed this summer—is short of what would be needed to realize early-stage renderings of a $37 million building, library officials had suspected that would be the case and are prepared to re-engage Connecticut-based Centerbrook Architects to “ask them to revise the plans and give us drawings and a conceptual framework of the best building that we can get on our existing footprint for $25 million,” Board of Trustees President Christian Le Bris said during the regular meeting of the Town Council.

“And what we suspect will happen is that we will have the same quality building but it will be smaller,” Le Bris said during the meeting, held in the Sturgess Room at the New Canaan Nature Center.

The discussion arose during a presentation from Director Lisa Oldham about ways the library has reorganized staff, such as by creating a Readers’ Advisor role, expanded technology offerings, launched new programming, refreshed its layout and otherwise modernized and tailored itself to a future facility. Just two-thirds or so of the current, 37,000-square-foot building is usable, Oldham said.

Town council members including Kathleen Corbet, John Engel and Joe Paladino asked about what parts of the existing facility will be preserved, if any, just how the rebuilding itself will affect service, and about the prospect of parking.

Le Bris said original, stone-façade “legacy” building that faces Main Street will be saved “in some form” since “it is a symbol of the town and a symbol of the library.”

Oldham said the rebuilding project will occur in stages, with a new section likely going up first where the most recently installed parking areas are now, with the staff moving into that new structure as the project moves toward the original Main Street piece, taking down what’s built around it and building connecting sections to the stone façade.

Asked whether the library would experience any time that it’s closed completely, Oldham said, “Not on my watch.”

“Moving out of town would be pretty bad. Closing would be the absolute worst,” she added.

To Paladino’s question about parking, Oldham responded that the new facility would have about the same amount of parking as the current one, even if a new building goes up in what are now parking lots, because underground parking would be created in the slope that runs to Maple and Main Streets.

Asked by Town Council member Roger Williams about whether the feasibility consultants said just how the $25 million would be achieved in terms of gift sized, Oldham said: “We are very hopeful of getting a few really significant gifts to get us started.”

A new facility is expected to set the New Canaan Library off on a strong long-term financial track with respect to state funding, Oldham said, since the state bases its grant amounts on a complicated formula that looks at how many local residents use libraries in other towns, and how many nonresidents use a local library. Right now, she said, the recently rebuilt Darien Library is getting about three times the amount of state funding that New Canaan gets.

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