Officials on Monday morning voted in favor of a contract that’s designed to kickstart the long-awaited transformation of a public building behind Town Hall from a defunct teen center to a useful, rented commercial space.
The Board of Selectmen voted 3-0 to approve a $44,000 contract with Woodbury-based Gary Numberger, Architect LLC for design and engineering services in connection with the former Outback Teen Center. The New Canaan Department of Human Services is to move into the ground floor of the building from its current home in Vine Cottage, while a dance studio rents space on the main floor.
According to Department of Public Works Building Superintendent Bill Oestmann, the municipal agency will get a dedicated new entrance from the Town Hall side of the Outback.
“It will be more inviting,” he said of the planned new entrance, and the Human Services Department will also move into renovated space with offices and a conference room.
“They will have the same amount of square footage if not a little more than they have and it will all be on one level,” Oestmann said at the Board’s regular meeting, held at Town Hall.
In all, the physical renovation work is expected to come to about $300,000, he said, and the job could go out to bid by the end of January.
“I’d like to get in there as soon as possible and at least get the tenant in on the second level and work our way down to the lower level, just so we can get some income going in,” Oestmann said. “I am hopeful that by spring time we should be well into the project. It’s hard to say how long it’s going to take exactly. Right now the economy is so good, the contractors are so busy, just trying to get somebody is going to be a challenge.”
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kit Deveraeux and Nick Williams voted 3-0 in favor of the contract. The Board of Finance and Town Council had approved the funds last week.
The selectmen asked Oestmann for the square footage of the entire building (about 4,700), whether a working elevator is needed (no, but ADA-compliant bathroom upgrades are), whether handicapped access to the second floor is needed (no, the dance studio is not a government use), whether any remediation is needed (no, a consultant reported that there are no hazardous materials in the building) and how many parking spots the town would gain by demolishing the Outback (about 10).
Williams asked whether the town was confident it could not rent out the Outback building as-is without spending any money on it.
Oestmann said it proved very difficult to find a single tenant for the building with low-impact parking and noted that elements such as a working elevator come into play with just one renter. One major advantage of the dance studio use now proposed for the upper floor is that in operating from about 4:30 to 8 p.m. it’s “off hours” with respect Human Services. In addition, Oestmann said, a regular office or other tenant for the space would mean that under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations the town would need to provide 18 to 26 parking spots.