Danbury Leaders Try to Secure a New Future for Historic Courthouse
This is the vacant Fairfield County Courthouse which is located out the south end of Main Street in Danbury.
The dome-topped, Greco-Roman style building was designed by Bridgeport's Warren R. Briggs and built in 1899. The Courthouse is considered to be part of the Main Street Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This beautiful and intimidating structure has sat empty for some time and its fate hangs in the balance of discussions currently taking place. A plan has been formulated to save the courthouse, one that includes the city of Danbury buying it from the State of CT.
The Courthouse getting a new lease on life, is just one element of this $70 million solution. According to a News Times report, the Danbury City Council has thrown unanimous support behind the effort which allows Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito to take the next steps.
We asked the Mayor to join us on the I-95 Morning Show to discuss the project, this is what Esposito had to say:
"It's a beautiful building that has been here for a long time, it's a staple here in the community. The reality of this whole process is, we initially looked into the purchase and we were getting feedback that we could get it for a really good price, like a dollar. Then, the state came back with a price of 1.6 I think, million dollars. That was not acceptable for us, at this time as far as making the investment. But, we got our former Congressman Jim Maloney, who has an investment or a group that will support this and working together with Mr. Maloney we're going to be able to file for a grant with the state. The good part is, hopefully we'll get the money from the state, to pay the state. But, overall it is a really good opportunity to get the funding and it doesn't hit the taxpayers of Danbury at all. Actually it gets our tax dollars that we send to the state, back here in our community. But, to save that building itself is huge because we all know that building has been around a long time. We're looking to utilize it for city departments, as far as the Danbury Museum, there is an opportunity there and our probate court may be able to utilize that location."
The plan looks like a win-win for the community and the city, if everything breaks right but it is a bit complicated. The News Times outlined the complexities in a March 13 article by Rob Ryser who wrote:
Two neighboring properties came into play because the city would need parking to reuse the old courthouse for municipal purposes. But the landlord would sell only if two of her lots across Park Place were also part of the deal. That’s when the nonprofit proposed converting the two extra properties into ground level retail and 100 units of workforce housing.
We asked The Mayor about the broader project beyond the courthouse, this is what Esposito told us:
"Saving the building and utilizing it for ourselves is great but the reality is, the entire project is very positive for Danbury. As I said, it is not going to effect our taxpayers but it is going to enhance the south end of Main Street. They're looking to build workforce housing which you know is smaller apartments which give those that, the opportunity to get a rent that is a little more in line with their pay scale. We're looking at teachers, firefighters, policeman and those younger individuals that are starting out, will be able to be housed there. I think it's almost 200 units, it is going to be a great project and I think besides saving the courthouse this is really good for the Downtown area, especially the south side."
Listen to our full Thursday (3/16/23) interview with Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito below.
We are going to follow this story as it develops because this has potential to be a great thing for Downtown Danbury. The Mayor's office has offered to put us in touch with former Congressman Maloney and we are going to follow-up on that. I'd really like to hear the nuts and bolts aspects of what it will take, to make this happen.
I love this building.
P.S. You read that right. The city is going to try and secure grant money from the State of CT and use that money to pay the State of CT for the property. Additionally, yes the price of the property was potentially going to be $1 and became $1 Million +.