The New Canaan Board of Selectmen on Tuesday unanimously approved a request from the Town Hall Building Committee to enter into a contract with KSQ Architects for the renovation and expansion of Town Hall.
The project, currently estimated at $12 million to $14 million, involves the demolition of the approximately 10,000 square foot "auditorium wing" at the rear of the building and replacing it with a new, 20,000 square foot addition that will include a smaller auditorium and various administrative offices and meeting rooms. In addition the attached garage at the back of Town Hall will be razed to make room for the new addition.
The rest of the facility will be gutted and interior spaces will be reconfigured to make it more functional and efficient, as well as code compliant. The facade of the original 1909 building which faces Main Street will be fully preserved. In addition certain historical elements or materials — such as the the marble flooring and murals in the auditorium — will be either reused or recreated in the new facility.
The proposed expansion, initial funding for which was approved earlier this year, will enable to the town to bring its satellite offices at Irwin Park and Vine Cottage back to Town Hall.
During the meeting, Michael Avgerinos, local builder and chairman of the Town Hall Building Committee, said KSQ Architects plans to "preserve a lot of the original building," including certain features that would be too costly to reproduce today, such as the railing on the main staircase. Historic elements which cannot be preserved or which are not cost effective to save will be recreated using new materials, he said.
First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said the committee chose White Plains, N.Y.-based KSQ Architects over competing bidder Perkins Eastman Associates — which developed the conceptual plans for the project under the auspices of the town's Long Range Planning Committee — because of KSQ's experience in preserving historic buildings.
What's more KSQ is already familiar with the project, as the firm had previously been selected to handle the renovation before it was postponed due to the recession in 2008. What's more KSQ has worked with the town on other projects, including the 2008 Downtown Study.
"We want a new building that incorporates as many elements as possible of the original building," said Selectman Nick Williams.
Avgerinos said the building committee has been discussing the possibility of recreating the original facade on the north side of the building, along the driveway, which was altered back in the 1950s when the original auditorium wing was converted into two story structure. Avgerinos said when the high ceiling of the auditorium was "dropped" to create space for the second floor, the arches at the top of the original palladium windows had to be "chopped." He said the committee will be working with KSQ to see if the original window design can be reincorporated into the new building along that exterior wall. In that regard, some parts of the old building will be restored back to their original state.
"We would like your approval to finalize this contract [with KSQ] and move on," Avgerinos said, adding that the committee hopes to have preliminary designs ready for review by January and final architectural drawings ready by late spring.
The architectural firm is expected to present several design "options" when it unveils the preliminary plans, with cost estimates for each option. (The Request For Proposal sent out in July calls for "two options for sizing the building... one that will accomodate existing staff and an additional 10 employees, and one that will accommodate existing staff and up to 40 additional employees.)
The new building will also be able to support new communications technology and will be fully energy efficient (the RFP states that LEED Certification may be pursued as an otpion).
Avgerinos said the final architectural drawings will drive the cost of the project. He said the committee plans to hold several informational meetings allowing residents to provide their feedback on the project at various junctures during the local approvals process.
Meanwhile, the town assessor, tax collector, parking and fire marshal's offices have been relocated from the old town hall building to the Stewart office complex on Elm Street, in the same building as Walter Stewart’s Market. In addition the finance and human resources departments have been relocated to the New Canaan Police Department's facility at 172 South Ave. The town reportedly spent $131,000 on minor renovations in order to prepare these spaces for the temporary relocation of town departments. The remaining offices will move over the next few weeks and the town clerk's office will relocate after the Nov. 6 elections.
[Editor's note: Two corrections were made to this article at 4:30 p.m. Thursday — first to remove an incorrect statement that the town was pursuing a renovation of the Irwin building following the renovation of Town Hall; second to remove an incorrect statement that the architect would also serve as the project manager.]