Committee Imposes 90-Day Delay on New Canaan Library’s Partial Demolition

An appointed town body on Monday voted 4-0 in favor of imposing a 90-day delay on the partial demolition of New Canaan Library. Members of the Historical Review Committee during a special meeting said that the original 1913 library meets criteria of local history and architecture as outlined in Section 12-10A of the Town Code. Citing a letter of objection to the library’s recent demo permit application that was filed by New Canaan resident Mimi Findlay, Committee Chair Mark Markiewicz said, “It’s very clear that the original 1913 building has a very compelling history, both socially in the town and architecturally.”

“It also seems like there’s a great potential to repurpose it, which would become a great cultural asset to New Canaan,” he added at the meeting, held in Town Hall and via videoconference. “To use its full footprint including the five rooms that originally were built, I think it offers a lot of opportunities for different events, whether it’s exhibits or music venues or whatever. And its central location is also important.

Town Approves Traffic-Calming Measures on Valley Road at Silver Hill

Town officials have approve a series of traffic-calming measures on lower Valley Road designed to improve pedestrian safety in the area of a psychiatric hospital whose staff and patients cross the busy street to reach  different sections of its campus. The Police Commission at its March 16 meeting voted 3-0 in favor of installing a sign advising motorists to reduce their speed from 25 to 20 mph in the area of Silver Hill Hospital. At the request of New Canaan-based landscape architecture firm Keith Simpson Associates and with support from police and public works officials, the appointed body also approved moving “Hospital Zone” signs closer to the actual approaches to Silver Hill from both directions, putting in permanent speed sentries to notify motorists of their vehicles’ speeds, painting a single shoulder line along 1,800 feet of campus street frontage and installing pedestrian-activates rapid rectangular flashing beacons or “RRFBs” at two crosswalks there. “Valley Road is a busy road,” Simpson told the commissioners at the meeting, held via videoconference. 

Silver Hill is unique among institutions such as private schools that are set within residential zones in that it is bisected by a road, Simpson said, “which gives SH a unique challenge, really ,and in fact all of us who are interested in public safety.”

“WIth seven buildings on each side of the road there is significant pedestrian traffic in an area of town where, if people are driving along Valley Road who are not necessarily familiar with the fact that there was a campus there and Silver Hill was there and they felt they were just driving along another residential road with cars coming in and out of driveways, they would not expect to find major pedestrian cross-traffic,” Simpson said Simpson. He added that he himself is a resident of the area and drives on Valley Road daily.

Podcast: Preserving the 1913 Library Building

This week on 0684-Radi0, our free weekly podcast (subscribe here in the iTunes Store), we talk to local preservation architect Rose Long Rothbart and landscape architect Keith Simpson about New Canaan Library’s rebuilding plans, and why they feel the original 1913 core of the existing building should be preserved. Here are recent episodes of 0684-Radi0:

Here’s What’s Next for the Former ‘Mead Park Brick Barn’ Site

Town officials say they’re adopting a plan laid out by a local landscape architect to reimagine the northern portion of Mead Park where, until last week, a former fuel depot had stood for 100 years. 

The demolition of the “Mead Park Brick Barn,” which came nearly one year after the first selectman broke a tie on the Town Council to have it razed, clears the way for New Canaan to pursue a plan for the area that Keith Simpson Associates put forward several years ago. Plans call for an overhead sign announcing the new formal entrance to ‘Mead Park’ and commencement of the “Gold Star Walk,” an honorary walk in memory of New Canaanites who died in World War II that rings that side of Mead Pond. The footprint of the Brick Barn would remain as a plaza with native stone paving infill and seating that’s edged by ornamental fencing, an on-grade brick border and low plantings, under the Simpson plan, and a pedestrian path would run off of the back toward the Gold Star Walk itself. The small parking area next to the razed building would include six parking spaces, one for disabled drivers, and a bike rack would be added there, under the plan. Asked about the plans, Public Works Director Tiger Mann called the area “an underutilized side of the park.”

“Most people come in for the other side, with the Lodge and baseball fields and playground, so we want to promote usage of this side, we’re trying to make a nice entranceway,” he said.