Community discusses Q House

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Photo by Ken Yanagisawa.

A group of community leaders met on Wednesday evening to discuss options for reopening the Q House, a community center on Dixwell Avenue that has been closed since 2003.

From 1924 to 2003, the community center offered classes, enrichment programs and communal space for New Haven residents “ages zero to 100,” said Ward 22 Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison, who organized the meeting at the Wexler-Grant School to discuss the Q House’s future. The committee of three alderwomen, business leaders, clergymen and high school students unveiled a plan to construct a new building on the site of the old that would house both the Q House and the Stetson Library, currently located across the street from the shuttered Q House building.

Because the state allocates funding for library construction in “distressed communities,” the plan would enable New Haven to secure state funding to construct the building, according to city architect Bill McMullen. The project is estimated to cost between $9 and $10 million.

Under the plan, the state would cover about half of the total, with the source of the remaining funds still unknown. The committee proposed that leasing space in the building would cover some of the costs of operating the community center.

“The first thing we have to do is get the building up,” Morrison said. “We need a building. We need an actual space.”

In December 2011, Morrison organized a meeting of various groups that had been involved in discussions about the future of the Q House. In 2012, this group obtained city funds to conduct a study of the existing Q House building and develop options for reopening the center. Those options were presented at the meeting Wednesday evening.

Architect Regina Winters showed a series of pictures of the inside of the Q House building and explained some of the major problems: broken windows, warped doors, poor ventilation, lack of conformity to modern accessibility code and mold throughout the building. One photograph showed green sludge spreading across a counter in the Q House.

“We’re not quite sure what that green stuff is but it’s not supposed to be there,” Winters said. “And it’s growing.”

The study found it would cost between $5 and $7 million to bring the building up to code. Morrison said that led the committee to conclude constructing a new building would be preferable.

The 40 audience members asked questions about the programs the new Q House would offer and how all the necessary funds would be procured. Morrison acknowledged that the committee didn’t have all the answers, since the plan was only recently developed.

One questioner stressed the importance of community ownership and asked whether the plan would turn the Q House into a tenant of the library; Morrison said no, but she pointed to the financial impossibility of reopening the Q House without creative thinking to secure funds.

“Right now as a community we don’t have the resources to be able to own the Q House,” Morrison said, “We the people are the Q House. That is just a building. What we need now is a safe haven, a community for our children, and a place for the community at large.”

Audience member Louise Pierce, who has lived in New Haven for her entire life, said she remembered spending afternoons and weekends at the Q House as a child in the 1950s.

“I would like to see the Q House rebuilt, to open up again so that children can have some place to go just like I did,” she said.

The old Q House building was constructed in 1969 and purchased by the city after the Q House closed.

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