‘A Potential Signature Change for the Town’: P&Z Opens New Canaan Library Rebuilding Application

New Canaan Library through many early design iterations sought to include the original 1913 building, the organization’s executive director said last week. Yet in acquiring an adjacent South Avenue property in 2017, opening up new possibilities for the best possible design, as well as a fundraising feasibility study “and a careful assessment of the functional needs for the building and grounds, the design could no longer incorporate the original facade into the building within these parameters,” Lisa Oldham told members of the Planning & Zoning Commission during their regular meeting. “The library then began to explore how it might retain the original structure, freestanding on-site,” Oldham said during the March 30 meeting, held via videoconference. “Several options for relocating it on the green were explored. In weighing these options, the library considered the following: First, the cost to rebuild the structure.

Library Attorney: Decision on Fate of 1913 Building Must Come During P&Z Process

Though a clause inserted last week into a draft agreement between the town and New Canaan Library would appear to forestall a decision on whether to demolish the original 1913 library building for at least two years during construction, the fate of that structure must be decided far sooner, an attorney said Tuesday. While it’s true that the library will operate out of its existing building until the new one is completed and ready for move-in, the Planning & Zoning Commission must approve the library’s full plan for the site even before construction starts, including for the century-old structure overlooking Main and Cherry Streets, according to Ted O’Hanlan, a longtime partner at Stamford-based Robinson + Cole who was nominated last week as a state Superior Court judge (the class of nominees awaits confirmation by the General Assembly). P&Z “has to approve a plan before we can start anything, so this will be resolved by then,”” O’Hanlan told members of the Board of Selectmen during their regular meeting, held via videoconference. “I don’t believe it can be an open issue,” O’Hanlan added, where construction can commence without a final plan for the 1913 library. “The library plans to put forward a very articulated reason why it’s not proposing to save the 1913 building,” he said.

‘If You Want To Save Something, You’ve Got To Step Up’: Selectmen Discuss 1913 Library Building at Budget Hearing

The town’s highest elected official said at a recent budget hearing that he remains supportive of a $10 million municipal contribution toward the planned rebuilding of New Canaan Library, while signaling to those seeking to preserve an original 1913 building that would be demolished under the library’s plan that they’d need to come up with a formal use and funding to make that happen. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said during a Jan. 19 Board of Selectmen meeting that he remains “committed to the project” as well as “the $10 million capital contribution [from] the town.”

“I think some people think the 1913 building is a closed issue, but we have to get through P&Z and see where that comes out,” he said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “I would say, as I have said publicly, anyone who wants to preserve a building has to step up and help—have a purpose for the building and help have money for [it]. You can’t just say, ‘I want a building to remain,’ and not be part of the process to make it have a purpose.”

The comments came following a presentation from the library’s executive director, Lisa Oldham, and its annual request for a town contribution toward operations.

New Canaan Library Expands Digital Offerings As COVID-19 Virus Surges

Saying they may need to reduce hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Canaan Library officials are spotlighting their expanding and increasingly sought-after digital offerings. Though she’s hopeful the library won’t have to cut back its hours, Executive Director Lisa Oldham said fewer patrons have been coming into the physical building since the virus began surging again last month. “As cases and hospitalizations go up, we know more people are being more cautious and staying at home,” Oldham said. Those people still can access a wide range of materials, she said, as they have been doing in increasingly high numbers since the onset of coronavirus disease earlier this year. Borrowing of e-books has increased 100% year-over-year since March, and children’s and teens digital circulation has risen 250%, Oldham said.

Library: Rebuilding Project on Track for Spring As Parking Plan, Schematic Design Get Finalized 

The timetable for municipal approvals of the widely anticipated New Canaan Library rebuilding project has been pushed back a bit pending details around parking and specifics of financials, the town’s highest elected official said this week. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said Tuesday that he had anticipated the library coming to the Board of Finance this week “with further financial information, but they are waiting for pricing estimates on their project.”

“The Board of Finance has made clear that they want much more specific numbers before they can move forward,” Moynihan said during a regular meeting of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure, held via videoconference. “The Town Council has made clear that they want to see what is going to Planning & Zoning, which now has slipped a bit to the end of November, apparently.”

The $36 million rebuilding of New Canaan Library is still expected to commence next spring and construction will continue for about two years, the library’s executive director, Lisa Oldham, confirmed when asked about the project. Under a draft Memorandum of Understanding or ‘MOU’ with the town that’s been under negotiation since early this year, the town is to contribute $10 million toward the project while the library bears the balance of the cost through its own fundraising and a $15 million commercial construction loan from Bankwell, documents show. Moynihan said that parking is among the key pieces of the MOU.