Courtesy of Ken Yanagisawa

Following a decade of public pressure to rebuild the Q House — a community center in the historically low-income Dixwell neighborhood — the Board of Alders on Thursday approved what it referred to as the last step of the project: a 20-year initial lease of 15,374 square feet of space for the soon-to-reopen center. 

The Q House advisory board met virtually on Monday to finalize the details leading up to a ribbon-cutting ceremony that will be held on Oct. 30. The board explained some of the features, programs and facilities that the public can expect to access. 

“I’m just so excited that all these are programs from New Haven people to New Haven people,” Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison, chair of the advisory board, said at the meeting. 

The reopening, along with the various social services that the new center plans to offer, was  made possible by the center’s partnerships. These include the New Haven Free Public Library, the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center and the New Haven Department of Elderly Services. 

After city officials deemed that it would be more sustainable to rebuild the community center on Dixwell Ave. rather than renovate it — leading to the demolition of the old Q House in January 2016 — several legislative steps have been taken to approve funds for the new building.

In June, the Board of Alders approved a three-year, $300,000 contract between New Haven and Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership, a nonprofit organization that provides tutoring and swimming instruction services. The contract gave LEAP the jurisdiction to manage the new center. 

“The building is fully signed off by the building department,” city engineer Giovanni Zinn said on Monday. “It is also fully signed off by engineering, traffic and parking. We have full unlimited use of the building for any programs or anything else.”

Traditionally, the Q House offered various social and recreational services for the Dixwell neighborhood, with specific programs tailored toward senior citizens and New Haven’s Black community. The new center features African motifs and designs in both the exterior and interior, thanks to the efforts of Regina Winters-Toussaint ARCH ’94, who was one of the first Black women to graduate from the School of Architecture and who served as architect for the project before she passed away in Apr. 2016.

The new Q House will offer a wide variety of services and activities, ranging from sports programs to mental health support. The center will also provide career services, according to LEAP Executive Director Henry Fernandez.

“We’ve … done meetings with the folks at Yale Hiring as well,” Fernandez said.“[Discussing] potentially using some space … for job readiness training so that people are in a position to apply for jobs — in particular, for jobs at Yale.”

According to Fernandez, the new building will feature a security camera and a specialized air filtration system to accommodate activities during the pandemic. There will also be sensors that adjust room temperatures based upon the number of people in a room. 

To account for COVID-19 restrictions, the center will facilitate small group tours of about 10 people each during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which is scheduled to happen from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Dixwell outdoors plaza on Oct. 30. The tours will include both an exploration of building facilities and question-and-answer sessions in specific sections with partner organizations.

There are still a few issues that need to be addressed, Q House leaders said. Zinn mentioned delays in furniture trucking, which is making it challenging to install furniture, and Fernandez said that the center still had a directorship position that needed to be filled.

The next Q House advisory board discussion is scheduled for Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m., five days before the opening ceremony. 

Brian Zhang is Arts editor of the Yale Daily News and the third-year class president at Yale. Previously, he covered student life for the University desk. His writing can also be found in Insider Magazine, The Sacramento Bee, BrainPOP, New York Family and uInterview. Follow @briansnotebook on Instagram for more!