New Canaan Library on Tuesday unveiled plans for a rebuilt facility that makes dramatically different use of the organization’s gateway block to the downtown and features a glass-and-stone exterior, 300-seat auditorium, rooftop terrace, café, public concourse, fireplace, two large conference rooms and “town green” at the corner of Main and Cherry Streets. Appearing before the Board of Finance ahead of making a formal request for a $10 million town contribution toward the overall $30 million project, library officials described the planned new building as a state-of-the-art facility that opens possibilities in events, programming and gathering for the library and the wider community.
Library Director Lisa Oldham noted that the real estate and business communities already have voiced support for the project, and that the rebuilt facility is expected to be an asset for New Canaan that draws homebuyers and encourages residents to stay here. She shared projections from a draft economic impact study that the library commissioned the Connecticut Economic Research Council showing “that the library will drive significant new dollars to the local economy, up to $6 million a year in new consumer spending.”
“The town’s critical capital allocation for the library should be viewed as an investment with a clear and quantifiable return in the form of real economic gains that will stimulate our local economy,” Oldham said during the Board’s regular meeting at Town Hall, attended by a standing room-only crowd.
The library itself has already raised about $15 million toward the project and plans call for a spring 2021 groundbreaking followed by 18 to 24 months of construction. The current building would operate while the new one is built.
The new 48,000-square-foot building would replace an aging facility with a failing, costly physical plant that hasn’t had a significant renovation in four decades, Oldham said.
During their presentation to the Board, Oldham and the library’s director of development and marketing, Ellen Crovatto, played a short film that featured 3D renderings of the planned new library’s interior and exterior (see above—it drew loud applause from the room), reviewed the need for a new facility and efforts to solicit input from locals, spotlighted the library’s high community engagement and broke down to-date fundraising successes for the project (including 55-plus gifts of $100,000 or more).
Board members complimented Oldham and Crovatto on their presentation and plans, which Michael Chen called “mind-blowing.”
“I really think this is a game-changer for the town of New Canaan,” Chen said.