Art classes. A history museum. Computer labs.
Those are some of what a newly rebuild Dixwell Community “Q” House could look like, if the community itself has its way.
Fifteen members of the public offered those ideas and more at a public hearing at Wexler-Grant School Wednesday night.
The state is giving New Haven $1 million to plan—and then probably some $15 million to build—a new version of the old, long-missed Q House community center on Dixwell Avenue. The former Q House closed in 2003 due to lack of money. The Board of Alders held the hearing Wednesday to get input about what to put inside the center once it’s built.
“We wanted to make sure that the community was included,” said Mayor Toni Harp, who attended the public hearing. Harp made the revival of the Q House a main campaign promise last year.
The city’s capital projects architect, Bill MacMullen, presented early schematics of the building, which would comprise about 54,000 square feet. The building would have three main components – the Q House Community Center, an extension of the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, and the Stetson Branch Library, all surrounding a common courtyard in the middle. About 5,500 square feet of space would be shared among the three.
Since the Q House’s closure, the Stetson Library has served as the Dixwell neighborhood’s primary community center. Stetson sits right across Dixwell Avenue from the Q House. If the library moves across the street to join the Q House, the city would decide what to do with its current building.
The health center would staff its Q House branch with family practice doctors and social workers, who would offer appointments in the evenings and on weekends.
The city is also considering leasing space inside the new Q House building to other tenants, such as cultural centers, a senior center, or Board of Education offices. Other ideas for what could go inside the Q House include multipurpose activity rooms, lockers and showers, a fitness area and a TV broadcast studio.
Credit Repair, Solar Panels
Members of the public, many of whom grew up at the Q House, tossed out more ideas during an open question and answer period.
Linwood H. Branham Sr. (pictured), president of the Society of Former Slaves and Freemen, suggested the new Q House offer social events for kids, like the Q House dances he remembered attending as a child.
Shawn Garris, the executive director of the Q House from 1996 to 2000, called for bringing in small businesses and tenants to make the Q House financially sustainable. Garris said he’d also like to see an enclosed garage for vans, solar panels on the roof and special education programs.
Clarence Phillips Jr, who’s 48, called for credit repair assistance to help adults prepare to buy homes and cars.
Phillips said he started going to the Q House he was 7 to play basketball and take clarinet and drum lessons. He said Dixwell was an active community back then. Now with the Q house shuttered, he said, the neighborhood lacks unity.
He expressed hope in the plans: “It’s going to be a worthwhile venture for young people as well as senior citizens.”
Until the old building is revived, Phillips added, a revitalized neighborhood is “still a dream we’re waiting to see happen.”
Jerome Perkins said he’s looking for this project to create more jobs for local businesses and construction workers, like himself.
Kimberly Kyles proposed a media room for young people to learn about the world around them. “The media is what the people don’t have,” she said.
Kyles also urged the city to send updates during and after the project to keep neighbors in the loop on the Q House’s activity and effectiveness.
Morrison said she and the 21-member Q House committee are taking all of these ideas into consideration.
“You have to involve your community. You’ve got to get your community’s okay,” Morrison said.
The city plans to issue a request for qualifications Thursday for an architect to draw up plans for the new Q House, according to youth services chief Jason Bartlett. Responses will be due in two to three weeks. By the first week in June, the Q House committee will review and conduct interviews with the architects. Most likely, three finalists will be chosen to create proposals for the committee, and then the committee will pick one to work with, Bartlett said.
The city plans to hire an architect by July and submit its final product for state approval in October.