Plans Filed To Rebuild ‘Merritt Apartments’ Downtown; Project Would Triple Number of Units

The owners of a combined 3.29-acre parcel fronting Maple and Park Streets downtown are seeking to replace four apartment buildings there with new structures that will roughly triple the number of units available while putting nearly all parking underground. Commonly known as ‘Merritt Apartments,’ the apartment buildings rise as high as three stories and currently include 38 units that offer no elevators and limited handicapped accessibility, according to an application filed June 1 on behalf of M2 Partners LLC. Plans call for four 4-floor multi-family dwellings that will include 60 condominium/townhouse and 62 midrise apartment units, according to the application, filed by attorney Steve Finn of Stamford-based Wofsey Rosen Kweskin & Kuriansky LLP. Composed of townhouse-style structures that meet New Canaan’s aesthetic by using stone, clapboard and shingles, the development “will help to maintain the vibrancy and economy of the downtown area by replacing outdated buildings with a beautiful new complex designed to look like townhouses with distinct and individual elements,” Finn said in a summary attached to a special permit application. “Increasing density will provide retailers with more people living within easy walking distance to downtown providing needed patronage for local stores, shops, restaurants and the movie theater.

Board of Ed Supports $16.9 Million Building Project at Saxe

The Board of Education on Tuesday voted 9-0 in favor of a recommendation to renovate the Saxe Middle School auditorium, expand performing arts classroom spaces and build a 2-story, 12-classroom addition on the northwest corner of the building for an estimated $16.9 million. The proposal, which also includes one relocated science/STEM classroom in the addition, would meet pressing enrollment needs by providing enough classrooms “without sacrificing program or class sizes, and put students into appropriately sized classroom spaces,” said school board member Penny Rashin, who helped lead a committee of residents and town and district officials who are overseeing the project. “While the cost is significant, we think this option provides an efficient solution to the needs of students at Saxe and urge you to support it,” Rashin said at the Board of Ed’s special meeting, a second read of the building proposal, held in the Choral Room at the middle school. On Wednesday, Rashin said, the Saxe Building Committee will go before the Board of Finance to seek $750,000 in preconstruction funding for the project (architects, engineering, legal, owner’s rep, environmental testing, construction manager and cost estimating). Parents and school board members in voicing support for what’s been called “Option 3A” pointed to rising enrollment at a school built for 1,200 students and attendant curriculum needs for the student body.

Board of Ed Voices Preference for 12-Classroom Build-Out at Saxe

Saying more classrooms are needed to meet rising enrollment while maintaining class sizes at Saxe Middle School, Board of Education members voiced support Monday night for an addition that could see an estimated 22,000 square feet built out of the northwest corner of the building. Though school board members stopped short of voting in favor of the still-conceptual plan that they’re calling “Option 3A” at Saxe—that vote, essentially a recommendation that would go to other town bodies, will take place at a special meeting on May 5—those that spoke said they supported a version of the build-out that would meet recommended numbers for science and general classrooms as well as special education spaces. Specifically, the Board of Ed voiced support for a two-story addition that would include 12 classrooms plus one science/STEM classroom (and would cost an estimated $9.65 million) over a single-story version that would have seven classrooms plus one science/STEM classroom (and cost about $5.8 million). “It is clear that the 8-room solution is a compromise,” Board of Ed member Gene Goodman said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. A committee spearheading the project at Saxe—originally formed to address needs for the now-shuttered auditorium and attendant visual and performing arts practice spaces only—now has developed four conceptual plans.

Consultants Detail Asbestos, Lead Paint, PCB Levels at Saxe Middle School

The EPA has asked consultants overseeing the renovation of Saxe Middle School’s auditorium to test for PCBs in the concrete floor, officials said Thursday. The levels of PCBs in the floor’s gray paint were high enough to cause concern, Amy Vaillancourt, project manager at civil and environmental engineering firm Tighe & Bond, told parents during an informational session held in the middle school. Ranging from 1,600 to 4,900 parts per million or “ppm” (against a federal standard of 50)—the PCB levels were not only higher than in other areas of the auditorium, but they also presented a greater exposure risk because floor itself shows some wear, Vaillancourt said. In removing the hazardous materials this summer, depending on whether the PCBs “leaked” into the concrete floor itself, some depth of that floor (up to one quarter-inch) may need to be removed as well during remediation this summer, she said. “To put that into perspective, there are two schools I’m dealing with right now—one high school that has 220,000 ppm and another elementary school that has 400,000 ppm—in paints,” Vaillancourt said at the session, held in the Band Room at Saxe.

Officials: Saxe Needs Not Just Auditorium Overhaul, But Also Arts Space Expansion—Total Cost $10.1 Million

Even an estimated $5.3 million renovation of the Saxe Middle School auditorium won’t accommodate a burgeoning student population, meet visual and performing arts space needs and bring much-needed flexibility to classroom scheduling, according to town officials overseeing a renovation of the facility. Creating sufficient storage and practice and classroom space for an increasingly large student body will require a footprint expansion of about 6,200 square feet off of the building’s south side—a project whose early estimate comes in at about $10.1 million, an owner’s rep for the project said at the Board of Education meeting Monday. The estimate is conservative, said Gene Torone, executive vice president of construction services as Glastonbury-based S/L/A/M Collaborative. Though some money may be saved in lower-cost materials, the figure doesn’t include removal of contaminants that officials expect to find as more testing is done on the auditorium, which is original to the 1957 building. “There is evidence of some [hazardous materials],” Torone said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School.