Councilman Calls for New Canaan To Make Decisions on ‘Under-Utilized’ Town-Owned Buildings

A member of New Canaan’s legislative body is calling for municipal officials to examine whether it’s time to offload town-owned structures that she described as “under-utilized.”

Town Councilman Penny Young said Monday that “it is really time to look a little more in-depth” at “some of these buildings which are under-utilized or which we should be offloading.”

“Other than the swing space for a possible need for the police, what do we do with the Irwin House?” Young said during a regular meeting of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure, held via videoconference. “Because it’s really not that great a structure. So maybe the recommendation is that after the police have use of it, it’s demolished. So I think we really need to take a good look. What is happening with Vine Cottage?

First Selectman: New Proposal for Using Irwin House Has Emerged

The town’s highest elected official said this week that a new suitor has come forward with a proposal to use the main house in Irwin Park, a public building that’s been vacant since municipal offices moved back downtown more than three years ago. Though New Canaan has already obtained an estimate to demolish Irwin House, “a party came forward and wanted to talk to us about a new proposal,” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said during the Board of Finance’s regular meeting Tuesday at Town Hall. “So we are evaluating that proposal and that is why I talked to John Irwin to see if he is willing to modify his deed restrictions to accommodate it,” Moynihan said, referring to the past owner or Irwin House. “So we will come back with a more concrete proposal for you to consider. Demolition is always the alternative.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what party has an interest in using Irwin House or for what purpose.

Selectman: More Public Input Is Needed on Future of Vine Cottage, Irwin House

More public input is needed before New Canaan gets closer to funding projects that bring major changes to the use and ownership of town-owned buildings such as Vine Cottage, Irwin House and the former Outback Teen Center, Selectman Kit Devereaux said Tuesday. There hasn’t been any real discussion in public about renting Irwin House to nonprofit organizations, for example, yet a process appears to be underway to start funding work to that end, according to Devereaux. “I am concerned, for instance, that in renovating—and I have no idea how much it would cost to do the full renovation of the Outback,” Devereaux said during the Board of Selectmen’s regular meeting, held at Town Hall. “By doing that I presume it would be a fait accompli to move Human Services over there which then creates a vacant building, and I just think before the Vine Cottage is put on the block, that there should be a lot of public discussion and the public should weigh in, even a referendum.”

Her comments came as the selectmen discussed proposed bond resolutions that are to go before municipal funding bodies and are related to future capital projects. They include $50,000 to plan for the renovation of the lower level at the former Outback Teen Center for office use and $80,000 for similar work at Irwin House.

Officials Receive Proposal To Convert Irwin House into IBM Museum

New Canaan has received a proposal to convert Irwin House—originally the country home of IBM founder Thomas Watson, Sr.—into a museum dedicated to the iconic company, town officials confirmed Thursday. During the “Forum on Public Buildings,” Town Council Chairman John Engel—a panelist at the 2.5-hour event—cautioned that New Canaanites “can’t get ahead of ourselves on this.”

“There are a couple of things [to understand]: That is not the only proposal that’s out there, but it is the only proposal for Irwin [House]. I expect that we’re going to be getting proposals from lots of people. The first one came when a member of the Watsons and IBM approached the [New Canaan] Historical Society and said, ‘Is this possible?’ And when they asked Town Hall, Town Hall said, ‘We want to hear all proposals.’ And they said, ‘Great, can we walk the building with the IBM-Watson people to see if it’s even a fit?’ And that’s about as far as it [has gone].”

The comments came in response to an audience question at the forum, sponsored by the New Canaan Historical Society, New Canaan Preservation Alliance, Town of New Canaan and NewCanaanite.com. Designed to give residents information about many of the town-owned buildings whose future uses and ownership are in question, and to open up lines of communication between taxpayers and both elected and appointed decision-makers, it featured a panel that included Engel, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Town Council members Penny Young and Cristina A. Ross, and Board of Finance member Amy Murphy Carroll.