The Schlumberger Citizens Committee completed its report and recommendations and would like to thank all who contributed to and participated in the surveys and public meetings. Click here to view the Schlumberger Citizens Committee Final Report and Recommendations.
The Schlumberger Citizens Committee, a nine-member committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen, was charged to provide recommended uses for 30 acres of the 45-acre Schlumberger property purchased in 2012 for $6 million plus $1 million for transition costs. The 45-acre property was divided into 3 parcels: 10 acres along Sunset Lane, 5 acres across Old Quarry Rd and the remaining 30 acres, still owned by Ridgefield, which was under consideration by the Citizens Committee.
The purpose of the purchase of the 45 acres was to control the future of the property and to ensure increased density did not further stress the infrastructure in that area. At that time, the Selectmen envisioned selling off much, if not most, of the property to recoup the $7 million.
In 2013 local developer Steve Zemo purchased the 5-acre parcel for $1.25 million, and voters later approved the sale of the 10 acre parcel to Charter Group Partners for $4.3 million. Charter Group is in the process of building 54 age-restricted condominiums on the 10 acre site.
The Board of Selectmen created the Schlumberger Citizens Committee in 2015 to study the remaining ±30 acre parcel and conduct a public planning process to determine viable, community supported potential re-uses for the site. The Board of Selectmen interviewed dozens of interested citizens and appointed nine members to the Committee in March 2015. The charge to the Committee was to consider a broad range of alternatives and possibilities for the future use of the parcel including a desire to maintain the historic Philip Johnson Building, possibly as a Maurice Sendak Museum, and the existing Auditorium for potential public use. The Board of Selectmen also asked that the Committee consider preserving the Sky Dome Building. In late 2015 the Sendak Foundation indicated that it was not interested in using the Philip Johnson Building.
The Committee began meeting in May 2015 with initial efforts devoted to reviewing the Town’s involvement with the property and previously suggested ideas for re-use; identifying community organizations and media outlets that could assist in garnering public input; and soliciting proposals for a planning consulting firm to assist in the study process. The Committee ultimately engaged Milone and MacBroom, Inc. to assist in completing the study. Working with its consultant, the Committee then developed two surveys to gain an initial understanding of the community’s needs and visions for the site.
After carefully considering the information and public input received throughout its study process, including more than 2,300 survey responses containing 2,700 comments, meetings with 8 Town organizations and 4 potential users of buildings on the site as well as over 750 hours of time spent in over 18 meetings, the Citizens Committee believes that its recommendations include the highest and best long term uses for the 30 acre parcel. These recommendations reflect the Committee members’ individual and collective perspectives, were shaped by the desires of residents and are consistent with Ridgefield’s 2010 Plan of Conservation and Development.
The Committee recommends that the Town seek to develop approximately 12 of the 30 acre parcel into a low impact, environmentally sensitive Cultural Center that includes a picnic area and walking and biking trails, to be experienced and enjoyed by both Town and area residents. The Committee recommends that the Town preserve up to 18 acres, which comprise the balance of the site, as open space.
The basis of the decision is that cultural use of the site is consistent the desire of residents as expressed in multiple surveys and workshops, is consistent with the long term goals of the Ridgefield Plan for Conservation and Development, will likely be a generator of economic growth for the Town, and will be complementary to, and not detract from, existing venues within Town.
Key elements of the recommendations included:
- Earmark the Auditorium for use as a music/theatre venue. The Committee met with representatives of Act of CT, a to-be-formed 501(c)(3) corporation, which intends to draw from professional and local talent to offer limited run theatrical productions and theatrical education and training. The Committee believes their proposed use is consistent with the vision of developing a Cultural Center. Act of CT has indicated their willingness and ability to invest in the Auditorium to restore and establish it as an attractive and functional venue. Further, the Committee believes the renovation of the Auditorium and the proposed use of this space will be an asset to the community.
- Retain the Philip Johnson Building on the site based on its historical and cultural importance. The building will require significant capital investment to renovate it for re-use. In addition, its interior layout with many small offices and limited common work space has low appeal to typical modern day office users. The Committee met with representatives of BassamFellows, a modern design firm based in New Canaan whose principals have expressed a strong interest in purchasing the building and restoring and maintaining it as closely as possible to its initial design and use. The Committee believed that BassamFellows’ proposed use, for their headquarters, design center and showroom, aligned with the vision of developing a Cultural Center. Additionally, BassamFellows expressed a willingness to invest to bring the building back to essentially its original condition. They have also indicated their willingness to allow “others” from the community to have access to and tour the space on a limited, pre-scheduled basis.
- Proceed, as a Phase 2, with the design and the development of an Outdoor Stage/Amphitheater, which is the centerpiece of the proposed Cultural Center.