New Canaan Library officials said Tuesday that, thanks largely to demonstrated support from the town, the organization has a signed contract to purchase a key property on its block—an acquisition that allows the library to pursue a widely anticipated rebuilding project.
Acquiring the .19-acre parcel at 48 South Ave., currently the site of a multifamily dwelling, is hugely important because setback regulations would have forced the library to put parking aboveground without it—spoiling a vista for motorists approaching downtown New Canaan by its major north-south artery and forcing the organization to shoehorn its new $25 million facility into a far smaller footprint.
Making good on a promise to support the project, officials last week handed the library a $475,000 check to complete the $1,475,000 acquisition.
“We are incredibly thankful to the town of New Canaan for this huge vote of confidence and this signal that the community is behind the library in building this new building,” New Canaan Library Executive Director Lisa Oldham said.
The formal acquisition will allow the library to draw up renderings of the planned new facility and start fundraising in earnest—an effort that’s been on hold for more than one year, as negotiations with the owner of the coveted property got underway.
New Canaan’s funding bodies approved the special appropriation for the library three months ago.
First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said that with the purchase of the property next door, the library “can entice others to be as excited as the town is in this venture.”
“That check is symbolic of our support for the library and as a financial commitment to get them over the hump to do the things that they have to do next to attract more donors to their campaign,” Mallozzi said.
The library will only meet its fundraising goal “through great community participation,” Oldham said.
Most of the funds for the project will come from families and individual contributions to the capital campaign, she said.
Library officials have said the new building will roughly double the amount of usable space at the library, feature modern architecture and preserve a traditional look for an area dedicated to events and meeting spaces.
A new library is sorely needed, officials have said, as just two-thirds of the current, 37,000-square-foot building is usable, and the library has experienced chronic problems with its elevator, condenser and other infrastructure.
“What we do now is close on this property and re-engage our architects and start getting engineers in,” Oldham said when asked about next steps.
Those engineers likely will start their work next month, and the library figures to be in fundraising for about five years, she said.