Four months have passed since the unveiling of a preliminary blueprint for the new Dixwell Q House, but community leaders and city officials have made little headway on the project.
The lack of progress on the renovation of the beloved Dixwell community center appears to have stemmed primarily from a lack of communication between the Q House building committee and the Mayor’s Office, who offered different accounts of the project’s timeline and status. The Q House shut down in 2003 mainly due to a lack of sufficient funding, and the new center looks to combine a variety of public service centers including the Stetson Branch Library, Dixwell/Newhalville Senior Center and the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center Dixwell branch. Through this arrangement, these three organizations would help share the financial burden of maintaining the center.
Despite the lack of progress on the initiative in the first few months since the unveiling, both sides said they still believe that the project will move forward.
“Right now, we have to find money,” said Jeanette Morrison, co-chair of the building committee and Alder for Ward 22, which includes the Dixwell neighborhood. “We’ve been working on this for three years. We’ve done all the work that is necessary to be able to present to get the funding that we need in order to forge ahead. Now, it’s just a point of the Mayor’s Office doing whatever those steps are to apply for bonding funds and look at contributions from the city itself.”
The state has already funded more than $1 million to produce a feasibility study and preliminary planning for the project, which the study predicts will cost $14 million to $15 million.
Morrison said that, following the September meeting, the building committee incorporated suggestions from community members into the site plan. The architects have partially completed the site plan, which was forwarded to the Mayor’s Office. Morrison added that she has told the Mayor’s Office that the building committee would like to begin demolition in the spring or summer 2015. She said she is relying on the Mayor’s Office and Board of Alders to find funding sources.
However, the Mayor’s Office Director of Communications Laurence Grotheer said that he has not heard from anyone that the conversations have moved beyond approving a blueprint design for the Q House.
“There’s some concern that if there is a gap between the construction costs and the state’s contribution to the project, then how would the City bridge that gap? … There are no rigid deadlines, and the process is in process, ” Grotheer said. “These meetings are happening and the project is moving forward. It is a thorough and deliberate process that will take time, and things have to roll out sequentially.”
Grotheer added that the state will contribute the majority of the money going toward the Q House.
Curlena McDonald, the other co-chair of the building committee, said the committee met a few times after the site plan unveiling in September but has not met for roughly two or three months.
Optimistic that the project will move forward, Morrison said she will be meeting with the Mayor very soon to talk about the funding issues and should have information in a month or two.
Despite the current standstill, Q House advocates have not wavered in their efforts. According to New Elm City Dream’s Youth Coordinator Lisa Bergmann, the youth organization — which advocates for more jobs for at-risk youth jobs and community centers as part of the solution to ending violence in New Haven — is planning a march for late February in which the Q House will be brought up again. Two members of New Elm City Dream sit on the project’s building committee.
In addition to other initiatives, New Elm City Dream has conducted a march to raise awareness for the Q House and campaigned intensely for the election of Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is a supporter of the Q House. The planned march this February will coincide with Black History Month, which is significant because the Q House was a source of pride in the African-American community before it closed in 2003, according to Bergmann.
The Q House was built in 1924.