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Architects present early plans for, history of New Canaan's Town Hall

Published 5:38 pm, Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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  • A view of Town Hall from 1909 courtesy of KSQ Architects, in their presentation to the Town Hall Building Committee at its meeting on Dec. 3, 2012, in New Canaan, Conn. Photo: Contributed
    A view of Town Hall from 1909 courtesy of KSQ Architects, in their presentation to the Town Hall Building Committee at its meeting on Dec. 3, 2012, in New Canaan, Conn. Photo: Contributed

 

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While it's still early and time estimates remain preliminary, KSQ Architects and the Town Hall Building Committee hope to see the necessary parts of the structure demolished and construction begin by July, according to a presentation by KSQ architect Armand Quadrini at the Dec. 3 Town Hall Building Committee meeting.

"We'd like to do whatever we can to be ready by July," said committee Chairman Michael Avgerinos.

Quadrini presented two ideas for how the building could be reshaped.

In both sketches, the front of Town Hall would be preserved, but the back auditorium and probate court would be demolished. In one sketch, the back of Town Hall would be two stories and take up about 10,000 square feet.

In the other, the building would be three stories and take up only 7,500 square feet. Additionally, there is a wall in the auditorium that would be preserved in the two-story plan, but not the three-story one.

"We want to provide as much parking as possible," said Quadrini. "A 10,000-square-foot footprint will limit that. The three-story option will have smaller footprint, about 7,500 square feet, (which will allow for) more opportunities for landscaping and parking. I'm proposing that we study an option of three stories that preserves the old wall of the auditorium and a two-story one that doesn't."

The tradeoff would be more parking for the three-story plan, but the possibility of an awkward balance in a building that will remain two floors tall in the front and three in the back.

The architecture firm will meet with the town several more times over the coming months and plans to have a more detailed look into design options by Feb. 15, after which the town would conduct a public hearing.

"Each of the options would have renderings, timeline and budget," Quadrini said.

The meeting was the first time anyone had seen any plans or renderings of what a new Town Hall could look like, which was met with enthusiasm.

"It's exciting when you finally see some pictures," said First Selectman Rob Mallozzi.

The plans were met with some hostility from the crowd, many of whom were members of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance.

"Our concerns boil down to a couple of things," said Bill Hines. "We are not aware if anyone has taken into account monies that could come into town to see how much could be preserved. Sometimes you can get significant money, and if you have a preservation project ... that is a source of possible funds. I would hope the committee would dig into that."

Avgerinos said the committee had, in fact, looked into that possibility.

"Your group brought a person from the state whose job is to designate that money, and the answer is that we're not qualified unless we keep the whole building," he said.

Mallozzi concurred.

"It's a moot point. We've looked into it," he said. "Time is money. The longer we're out of Town Hall, the more it costs. I don't think previous groups have spent as much time as we have with preservation. We're moving on with that."

After the meeting, Hines and fellow Preservation Alliance member John Tremaine said they were impressed by the meeting.

"We were pleased and surprised with Armand's presentation tonight," Tremaine said.

In his presentation, Quadrini also presented some historical facts that have been learned about the building, which was built in 1907, renovated in the 1930s and added to in 1963.

"The original building had landscaping closer to Main Street to let you see more of Town Hall. It used to have lighting fixtures that were white globes on ornamental poles" by the entrance, he said. The rear auditorium was two floors high.

In 1937, two wings were put on either side of the entrance of Town Hall, which added to the symmetry of the building and blocked the rear auditorium from view.

In the 1963 renovation, a ceiling was put on the auditorium, reducing its grandeur but providing more office space on the second floor. The probate court was added to the rear of the building. The room, small and sturdy, may have been envisioned as a bomb shelter in 1963. Quadrini described it as a "concrete bomb shelter."

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4413; @Woods_NCNews