Consultant to P&Z: 1913 Library Worth Preserving

The 1913 library building is worth preserving and can be saved “at reasonable cost and limited impact to the proposed new library,” according to a consultant’s analysis filed last week with the town planner. The building, which includes a 1930s addition, “retains many of its character defining features, is in very good condition and provides many benefits,” according to a May 19 report from William W. Crosskey III, founder of Hartford-based Crosskey Architects LLC. It “provides a sense of place, community pride and identity distinct from other places” and “maintains stylistic diversity to New Canaan’s architecture,” Crosskey said in the report, citing information collected by a principal of the firm during a May 14 site visit. The 1913 building also “provides stabilization and growth” and “enhances cultural tourism to town center,” among other plusses, the report said. Crosskey was hired at the request of the Planning & Zoning Commission to review New Canaan Library’s application as well as materials presented by a group advocating for preservation of the 1913 library, to help commissioners understand the pros and cons of saving or demolishing the structure. 

P&Z is scheduled Tuesday night to hold its fifth and final public hearing on the library’s applications to build a new facility.

‘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.