‘These Good Folks Still Feel Invested’: Town Council Subcommittee Hits Pause on Thoughts of Razing Outback, Seeks Info On Restoration, Alternative Uses


Saying the careful, considerate handling of the privately funded and operated building that opened 15 years ago as the Outback Teen Center is important to New Canaan’s future, members of the town’s legislative body are calling for more information on what’s needed to restore the recently shuttered structure.

Though fire officials declared the Outback unsound and unsafe on the strength of a third-party engineering study commissioned after the town inherited it, members of a Town Council subgroup feel it’s worth exploring whether there’s a viable path to alternative uses for the building, according to councilman Sven Englund.

The Subcommittee on Land Use and Infrastructure at a meeting this month spent time hearing from some of those who had founded and supported the former teen center and “there is no desire to demolish the Outback building without assessing all the options,” said Englund, who co-chairs the subcommittee with Cristina Aguirre Ross.

“These good folks still feel invested in the original mission of the Outback in serving the youth population of New Canaan. We hope to honor those sentiments going forward.”

He added: “Relationships between the Town and existing and future public-private partnerships depend on the respectful consideration we will give this matter.”

At the Aug. 2 meeting, the subcommittee came up with this “to-do” list, Englund said:

  1. Find the set of drawings that best represents the “as built” state of the building.
  2. It was recommended to us that other persons or organizations should make a site visit and/or provide recommendations for repairs as needed. These are licensed professionals representing the builder, supplier and constructor.
  3. Obtain [Department of Public Works Buildings Superintendent] Bill Oestmann’s list of needed repairs and their estimated costs. This list is basic repairs through all ADA requirements to make the building fully functioning.
  4. Seek new uses for the Outback building. A priority of possibilities given the discussion at the meeting is: a. Youth Programs b. Schools Uses c. Charitable Organization Uses d. Commercial Uses e. Any person or group interested in moving/salvaging the building at their cost.
  5. Determine the cost per month to keep the building in its present state. This is the cost of doing nothing.
  6. What is the cost to demolish the building leaving the foundation? The foundation holds up the Playhouse parking lot.
  7. What is the cost to convert the empty foundation to parking spaces? How many spaces do we get for how much cost?
  8. How do the anticipated costs affect the Five Year Capital Plan? Balance projects delayed and opportunities missed against benefits to the citizens.

The list went to the full Town Council, Board of Selectmen and DPW Director Mike Pastore, Englund said, and following a meeting last week with First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, Administrative Officer Tom Stadler, Oestmann and Pastore, it was decided that numbers 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 above will be completed by the end of the month.

The data collected will be presented at a meeting of the subcommittee next month, Englund said.

The future of the disused structure remains unclear.

Citing a threat to public safety, New Canaan’s other major governmental funding body, the Board of Finance, at its Aug. 9 meeting voted unanimously to strongly discourage spending any taxpayer money to look at alternative uses for the former Outback building, according to draft meeting minutes. The finance board also approved a special appropriation from the town’s General Fund of up to $75,000 to address any public safety or emergency issues related to the building.

In the wake of the July 19 engineering report that found Outback to have been poorly and incorrectly constructed, a handful of those who had been involved with the teen center as volunteers and/or donors pushed back on what they characterized as the unfair pinning of the building’s problems onto them.

It appeared from comments made publicly by one former board president that Outback officials had been made aware of an anomaly with the building that would emerge as a potentially major safety hazard, according to the engineers who studied it last month.

Mallozzi has said safety considerations have been top of mind in figuring out what to do with the Outback now that the building belongs to the town.

A.P. Construction, the builder of the Outback, told NewCanaanite.com that as far as the firm is aware, the structure was built to design specifications.

6 thoughts on “‘These Good Folks Still Feel Invested’: Town Council Subcommittee Hits Pause on Thoughts of Razing Outback, Seeks Info On Restoration, Alternative Uses

    • Hi Murray,

      At a recent NewCanaanite.com community coffee there was a strong indication that parking would be the main roadblock to that happening.


    • The building was not designed for commercial use and there is a safety issue that forced the building to be closed. The building is not ADA compliant and has code violations to boot.
      Add to the fact that there is nominal parking.

      My suggestion is to incorporate the BOE into the $18.6mm Saxe expansion and renovation that we are paying for 12 classrooms.

      The school buildings should be in close proximity of one another.

  1. Another question that should be asked and answered: Can the Outback be taken down and then reconstructed at some other town owned site (High school near football field, Kiwanis Park, Mead Park, etc.) at a reasonable price? If so, the identified construction issues could probably be addressed economically during the reconstruction process.

  2. As I suggested once before the Outback can be back to code if those responsible for using wood not suited for the construction take a closer look. Even though the building was built to design specification the wooden beams were obviously not properly dry which after time shrank creating a separation which was shown in a photo by the Advertiser.
    Lets use some common sense in this situation and get down to what really needs to be done. This not a doll house that you build then tear down, that’s child play, this is not.

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