City officials and community organizers of the Q House building committee convened a meeting Thursday evening to announce that Dixwell’s beloved community center will reopen in 2016.
The deteriorating gray building on the corner of Dixwell Avenue and Foote Street will be demolished in the spring of 2015, the organizers announced. The new 14 million-dollar building, which will boast solar panels, a library, a health clinic and a senior center, is projected to open in the fall of 2016.
“Thank you all for keeping the vision of the Q House alive,” Mayor Toni Harp said to a crowded auditorium at the Wexler-Grant Community School. “This is a symbol of the Dixwell community.”
Devoted former members of the old Q House organized after its closure in 2003 into the Concerned Citizens for the Greater New Haven Dixwell Community House, Inc., working tirelessly to develop a plan to reopen the facility.
Architects from Zared Enterprises LLC presented the site’s floor plan to an enthusiastic reception at the meeting. Architect Regina Winters said many of the facility’s design elements were inspired by African and African-American art, in honor of the historically black community.
The second floor of the Q House will have a Dixwell community museum as well as space for temporary exhibits, she said.
The blueprint include a large community kitchen, a fitness room, various outdoor recreational facilities, a senior center and a recording studio. Branches of the New Haven Free Public Library and the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center will rent spaces in the new Q House. The New Haven Police Department will also open a substation by the facility.
“This will provide security and a welcoming arm for young people in the inner city,” said building committee member Frances Russell. “This will bring the community back together and provide the essential services we used to have here.”
To the frustration of several attendees, the building committee could not address questions about specific administrative policies, such as membership fees and access. Such decisions will be entrusted to the Board of Directors once the facility is constructed, said Board of Alders President Jorge Perez. While the city may play a role in administering the center for the first year, the committee hopes to establish it as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Attendees and speakers said that, in the Q House’s absence this last decade, crime and unemployment in Dixwell has risen.
“The Q House is going to keep people off the street. I’m tired of hearing about people my age out there killing each other,” said Duran Gaskins, a member of New Elm City Dream, a youth organization that mobilized in 2011 to reopen the Q House, accumulating 600 petition signatures, distributing 6,000 flyers, carrying out public demonstrations and meeting with city officials to realize their goal. “I want youth to have a voice in this city — it’s our time to shine.”
Committee co-chair Curlena McDonald said that with the addition of the senior center, the Q House will promote intergenerational exchange and contribute to a stronger culture in the historic neighborhood.
While organizers and community members are optimistic about the plans, the source of the $14 million needed is not yet assured. The community meeting was part of the process of applying for bonding money from the state, auxiliary funding awarded to municipalities to meet dire needs, according to McDonald.
Though the application process is competitive, Harp assured community members that Governor Dannel Malloy has expressed deep interest in aiding the city with the Q House. The state already awarded the city one million dollars to plan the construction.
The city will also establish an 80,000-dollar endowment fund to keep the Q House afloat until it can fundraise enough to reach its goal of a 3 million-dollar endowment.
“Actually, let’s raise 5 million so we don’t ever have to have this meeting again,” Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison, who has spearheaded the project, exclaimed. “The Q House is our pillar of hope. We kept the faith and we are going to rebuild the beloved, endeared Dixwell community house.”
The construction of the new building has the added benefit of putting more residents to work, Morrison said. The building committee will monitor construction contractors to make sure city residents are hired and paid at the prevailing wage.
Bill MacMullen, architect for the city of New Haven, commented that the number of organizations collaborating on the same goal has made Q House one of the fastest projected construction projects he had seen.
The Q House was first constructed in 1924.