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New “Q” House Price Tag: $13.4M

by Cora Lewis | Dec 23, 2013 1:18 pm

(11) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Social Services, Dixwell

Allan Appel Photo Thomas MacMillan Photo The revival of Dixwell’s beloved Community “Q” House has a price sticker: $13.4 million and change. Now its backers plan to take a bus trip to Hartford, to lobby state officials to help pay.

“The state finds money for other things; maybe they can find money for this,” Dixwell Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison said at a City Hall meeting of the Board of Aldermen’s Youth Commission, where the price tag was revealed.

The Q House, formerly a vital community and youth center, has been shuttered for a decade, due in part to financial woes. It became a rallying cry for people in the neighborhood and city-wide who are concerned about the lack of productive activities for young people.

The Board of Aldermen commissioned a $40,000 year-long study to that end. Then it recently voted to endorse the study’s plan to tear down the existing structure on Dixwell Avenue and rebuild a new center incorporating the Stetson Branch Library, currently across the street.

Zared Enterprises, a local architectural firm, estimated that it would cost more than $5 million to bring the old building to code, because it suffers from broken windows (pictured), warped doors, vandalism, and extensive damage to its electrical and mechanical systems.

Jeanette Morrison Photos With approximately $200,000 towards demolition, $11.3 million set aside for construction, and $1.9 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment, the final cost of the new “Q” totals just above $13.4 million, according to Zared’s calculations, presented at the Youth Commission meeting last week. The 50,000-square-foot plan includes areas that could be used for physical education or theater, in addition to spaces shared with the library.

In order to make the new Q House financially stable in the future, Morrison said, the city plans to lease space in the structure to businesses.

“We don’t want to be back here 30 years later, talking about ‘How do we sustain this?’” Morrison said.

The existing Q House, built in 1969, replaced an earlier version of the community center when that building no longer met the needs of the neighborhood.

“Leases in the building will put us in a position to have the Q House for years to come,” said Morrison (pictured). “Fifty thousand square feet is a lot of room. I don’t think they’ll grow out of that in a long while.”

The next steps toward making the project a reality include creating a group to raise money for ongoing operating costs and asking state officials for their support, the aldermen agreed.

“We’re all going to need to take a bus up to Hartford and lobby to get this money,” said Morrison. “It’s going to be really important that we as a city come together.”

The Youth Committee batted around ideas about the services the revamped “Q” might offer, including programs for seniors, career development advice, and psychological counseling.

“One of the things we definitely need to have in that building is mental health services,” Morrison said. “It’s taboo. Everyone thinks, ‘I’m not crazy.’ Nobody’s crazy. We just all need someone to talk to.”

She said that with career help for parents, activities for grandparents, and after-school classes for kids, the building could be a “way to make families whole.”

West River Alderwoman Tyisha Walker called renovating the Q House “the second puzzle piece to our comprehensive youth agenda: making sure young people have a safe space to go.”

Beaver Hills Alderman Brian Wingate agreed. He said he was especially glad that a new Q House would address the needs of teens 15 and older, which he called “that age group that is so troubled right now in New Haven and across America.”

“The whole of Dixwell Avenue needs to be refurbished, but this is a pillar of hope,” Morrison said. “One of the things we know, because we heard it through public testimony, is that the Q house has saved lives.”

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posted by: anonymous on December 23, 2013  1:30pm

Creating yet another stand-alone public facility, no matter how nice or needed it may be, is not a wise move. 

A standalone civic center is a mistake from a financial perspective (cost), from a public safety perspective (no eyes on street late at night), and from a land use perspective (the land is too valuable not to also use for other things, like housing).

A more proven approach would be to combine the structure with a community-owned affordable and mixed-income housing development.

Doing this would be a three-for-one (a “threefer”?).  The community desperately needs housing, it needs vibrancy, and yes, it needs good community centers too.

See links to examples at

posted by: Walt on December 23, 2013  2:20pm

Pardon my ignorance.  but the pictures shown just indicate a building closed and neglected, with weeds growing, and glass damaged, presumably by   the very kids it is supposed to serve, from its own neighborhood

Not a building to be demolished it appears   to me

Not an expert and just know of the Q Community Center as a very valuable service   which has been built, and failed   at least twice

Looks like someone is now in it to prosper, not to serve the City

Why not invest in Fair Haven or the Hill or City Point or some other troubled area this time rather than Dixwell again   and give other neighborhoods a chance for a change?

Just asking.  Do not know the answers.

Am I just misled by the photos used?

posted by: InformedOpinion123 on December 23, 2013  2:34pm

Why is the REASON FOR THE FALL of the Q House never mentioned? Horrific fiscal management was the primary reason. If I were a state legislator, I would ask 1) who will be responsible for the overall management of the Q House and 2) what assurances can you give that a new building would not suffer the same fate? I’m all for resources in the communities that are lacking them, but pouring $13M into a project that failed because it was poorly managed in the first place seems… stupid.

posted by: Noteworthy on December 23, 2013  2:39pm

Here We Go Again Notes:

1. All that has to be done to get the money is for the Q House and all the “businesses” it will lease to, is pretend to be a library.

2. New Haven - the city of continuous handouts always begging the state to pay for the next big thing as if “the state” is a magic pot of Santa Money.

3. One has to love the comments that portend that all that’s new in a Q House is not being provided elsewhere. Mental health services? Activities for kids? There is no end to people with ideas finding ways to spend other people’s money.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on December 23, 2013  3:08pm

What about a 14 million dollar plan that distributes the money into existing community resources.

14 M could go towards funding extensive after-school programs through NGO’s or local businesses that want to get started in the area.

This property should be sold to a private developer who can build more density in the neighborhood as well as retail facilities that benefit the neighborhood.

Community houses are mythical silver bullets of failed hypotheses gone by. The problems that the community house hopes to solve need to be solved at home, through neighborhood organizations, in the schools and on the streets.  A singular brick and mortar structure is an overconsolidated solution to a complex and distributed set of problems.

If you go to the State looking for 14 Million dollars to solve mental and community health issues I would support that.  But I don’t believe those outputs will come in the form of a building renovation.  I would suggest a more thoughtful plan that learns from the past and leverages the existing community.

It would be constructive to have the community shed light on how they would use 14 million dollars to solve the challenges we face.

Here’s how I would spend 14M in a quick napkin sketch:

- 2 Million dollars in forgivable loans divided amongst 10 small businesses willing to move to the area. If the businesses had focus on youth, healthy food or a potential for massive job creation I would select for those.

- .5M to an existing or new business improvement district along Dixwell to provide street maintenance and additional eyes on the street similar to Town Green SSD

- 5M divided amongst non-profits and church groups that are willing to move to the area or focus their resources in rebuilding the youth community in the area. I see an All Our Kin outpost, Solar youth and City Seed all with focused efforts.

- 2 M in subsidies for businesses around the City to pay for Summer internships for students in the target neighborhoods.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on December 23, 2013  3:11pm

I should also say that I would be willing to help gather feedback and/or help the alderman draft a more comprehensive and community encompassing plan.  How best to reach Jeanette Morrison?

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on December 23, 2013  7:49pm

Why did we spend all that money on new schools if we’re not going to use them to capacity? Does Wexler-Grant not have recreational facilities and classrooms?

posted by: Threefifths on December 23, 2013  8:16pm

Can some one answer this for me. How are you going to ask the state for money to help pay for the Q House,When city asks the state for millions of dollars to fix up the abandoned Goffe Street Armory.As part of the planning process, Robinson-Thorpe and 28 of her colleagues plan to visit a New York City community center called The Door on July 16. Robinson-Thorpe also plans to get back into the building to show fellow aldermen—about half of whom are new and missed the last tour—the potential the building holds inside.

City Seeks $2.8M To Fix Up Armory.

So which is it going to be Q House Or The Goffe Street Armory.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on December 23, 2013  9:04pm

Noteworthy identifies New Haven as once again in beggar mode and I agree.

The NY Times reported a study challenging the old view that tax exempt entities were justified on the basis of service to the needy. Too many were found doing little in the end.

We cannot afford to subsidize these wealthy non-profits. If taxes were fairly apportioned, residents of New Haven would have lower property taxes and rentals, more discretionary income and gov’t would have more funds to provide needed services.

This cycle of going to the state for our needs has to stop.

And development won’t solve the problem either.

posted by: Tom Burns on December 24, 2013  2:10am

Each of our schools should be used as a community resource all hours of the day and night—we already have a boys and girls club and Farnam house—lets use the beautiful schools and save the money—-T

posted by: Kevin on December 24, 2013  10:19am

I am agnostic on whether Q House should be revived or the focus should be placed on schools or other facilities. But the idea that Q House would be able to rent out space to support a substantial part of its operating costs strikes me as implausible. The current vacancy rate in New Haven for class “A” office space is over 23%, both downtown and in the rest of the city.

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