Report reverses fortune of Outback building
NEW CANAAN — Less than two months after what some members of the Board of Selectmen interpreted as a death sentence on the Outback building, it appears the home of the former teen center may have some life in it yet.
A July report from Di Salvo Engineering Group of Danbury, who had been recommended by KSQ Design, who oversaw the renovation and expansion of Town Hall, suggested the building was structurally unsound. It appears, however, after an investigation by the original builders, AP Construction, that the Outback, which fell under town ownership as of July 1, may simply need to be “tightened up,” as opposed to torn down.
“It certainly was a very different take than the one presented to me and the town on the 17th of July,” First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said.
What Di Salvo apparently missed in its report was a steel frame that, despite sliding and damaged beams, ensures the Outback building is not in danger of collapsing, according to Superintendent of Buildings Bill Oestmann.
Oestmann said town officials, the designers of the building and AP Construction met on Sept. 8 inside Outback to view the new findings.
“It was a pleasant surprise, let’s put it that way,” Mallozzi said. “It’s a building that’s different than the engineering firm we had asked to get in there was probably as familiar with, because it is so unique. It’s a little disappointing to see that what he (Di Salvo’s group) thought could be major issues were rather simple … to come in and correct.”
Early estimations for the cost of cosmetic fixes to the building are around $10,000, as opposed to the $500,000 it was suggested might be necessary to bring the building up to code after the damning July report.
The news is ultimately good for the town and the former teen
center, but Selectman Beth Jones was not shy in expressing her dismay at the misinformation of the last report.
“That first report we got was so dramatic and so frightening,” Jones said, referring to a claim in the original report that the building might be susceptible to high winds. “I didn’t sleep for nights. I’d wake up thinking, ‘Oh my God, what if all our teens were in there?’
Oestmann pointed out there is a difference between calling the building “structurally unsound,” as the Di Salvo report did, and saying the building is in danger of falling down.
Still, Jones felt the initial report misrepresented the state of the building.
She went on to say, “It’s like screaming in a movie theater when there’s no fire.”
Oestmann said he would compile the new information into a more comprehensive design for review by the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Town Council before a decision on the future of the building is made.
“We’re in no rush now,” Selectman Nick Williams said.