Q House “Mourning” Turns To Hope

Allan Appel PhotoNew Haven is getting $1 million to plan the rebirth of the Dixwell Community “Q” House—and, along with it, a neighborhood’s dreams.

Mayor Toni Harp and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made that announcement Tuesday afternoon at a festive event on the Daniel Y. Stewart Plaza outside the shuttered Q on Dixwell Avenue. They announced that the State Bond Commission has approved spending $1 million on planning and design work for the demolition of the existing building and the erection of next Q House on the site.

A dozen alders joined Harp and Malloy at the event along with community leaders who kept alive the beacon of a rebuilt “Q,” the legendary 1924 settlement house that closed a decade ago when it ran out of money.

The city purchased the Q’s most recent building in 2012 to avoid foreclosure. The monumental Brutalist-style mid-20th century building has become a rallying point and symbol for New Haveners concerned about the decline of neighborhood community centers. In its heyday the Q served as an African-American community anchor, where local kids learned gymnastics and tennis, got help with school work, and were mentored by caring adults.

Tuesday’s announcement gave hope that all that might return once again in the heart of the neighborhood.

That torch has been carried aloft by Jacqueline Bracey, the chairwoman of the Concerned Citizens for the Greater New Haven Dixwell Community Q House. (She is pictured at the top of the story at Tuesday’s event with with Board of Alders President Jorge Perez.)

She came to the plaza bearing a smile as well as a shopping bag full of Q House T-shirts that the committee have sold to raise money.

She gave one of the T-shirts to Governor Malloy; he was delighted, although he said it was a little large. In brief remarks Malloy put his support of the Q House in the context of his belief that “there must be organizations outside of schools to help young people to succeed.”

Mayor Harp said the community has “been in mourning” for the Q House.

“Today these walls hold a glimmer of hope for the day when a bustling Q House will [once again] serve this area,” said Harp, who had made reviving the Q House a plank in her election campaign last fall.

The state’s $1 million in “pre-development” will pay for an architect and engineer to flesh out the details of concepts that emerged from a $40,000 feasibility study, which the state also funded last year. (Click here for a story about that effort.) The effort was led by Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison and local architect Regina Winters. The study came to the conclusion that due to damage from neglect and environmental challenges within, it would be more cost-effective to raze the current Brutalist building, built by Herb Newman and Ed Cherry in 1969, and construct a new structure based on current community needs.

That study proposed that the new building house not only a Q House community center but also an expanded Stetson Branch Library. The library has for the past ten years picked up some of the Q House’s role as a community center, especially for young people.

Combining the two functions will give the building additional streams of revenue to tap into and address a big concern about a new Q project—how to keep it going year to year. A lack of operational “sustainability” helped lead to the Q’s demise in 2003.

The new state money comes with an added element to the play: the new facility will also include a new home for the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center Dixwell branch, currently located across the street.

The more community institutions involved in the plan, the better, argued Malloy. “The library and health center make a lot sense. I can [also] imagine some workforce uses. If you program [right], you can use this [future] building 18 hours a day. When you make that kind of investment it makes sense.”

Ultimately the plan calls for a $14-$15 million new 54,000 square-foot building. Demolition and rebuilding would cost $12 million, with another $2 to $3 million for furniture and fixtures, said Bill MacMullen, the city’s chief architect for capital projects, who will oversee whoever ends up building it.

Board of Alders President Perez said nothing has been decided “in stone.” He characterized the $1 million as funding that “buys the shoes before you start running.” The running—who the tenants will be, whether the structure might house one gym or two, a pool, how many computers—remains to be fleshed out.

There was no shortage of applause and optimism Tuesday. New Haven state Sen. Martin Looney characterized the Q House as a beacon of hope that has nurtured dreams for years. “This is a first step, to be followed by construction funding. The Q Hosue will rise and shine again,” he said.

Next step: Forming a committee that will select the architect/engineer team.

Ed Cherry, the designer of the building (pictured with Dixwell Alder Morrison) to come down, said he’s throwing his hat in the ring. He doesn’t want to serve on the committee. He wants to be selected by them as the architect to build it again, he said.


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posted by: connecticutcontrarian on March 18, 2014  3:45pm

Nice. I guess it helps to have friends in high places.

posted by: HewNaven on March 18, 2014  3:49pm

The more community institutions involved in the plan, the better, argued Malloy. “The library and health center make a lot sense. I can [also] imagine some workforce uses. If you program [right], you can use this [future] building 18 hours a day. When you make that kind of investment it makes sense.”

Why can’t we use our school buildings in the same way?

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on March 18, 2014  3:54pm

Aren’t these employees represented by different unions and thus have different contractual agreements and pay requirements? For those community schools in New Haven that do have extended hours, (think Wexler Grant for example) you have to have a custodian and security officer on duty. That overtime rate is much higher than paying a library employee whose sets hours are say 5-9pm.

posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on March 18, 2014  4:07pm

What a great thing! This is the divine handiwork of a very dedicated handful of folks who worked tirelessly on this….FOR YEARS AND YEARS!  They had an ally in the then Senator Harp, so this was not some fly-by-night deal.  But you would only know that by spending time in this Black community.

Bravo to the Governor for making this a priority.  This is how government can indeed make a difference in communities.  It is not the end-all-be-all to the issues of crime, drugs, education, etc.  It is however a hopeful step toward community building and reconnection. This community needs the Q House.  The Q House must be restored with a new mission and a new dedication to being a grounding point for this community.

It was so meaningful to be there with folks who worked and waited for this day not just for themselves, but for those that will come long after them.  We all have a stake in the success of the Q House.

posted by: robn on March 18, 2014  5:08pm

Before it goes down the memory hole, Q House was a private foundation that failed because the community couldn’t support it. Now cash strapped New Haven will be asked to pick up the tab (as a quid pro quo for Harp votes) even when there are brand new schools all over town that could serve the same purpose.

Lots of great history here…

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 18, 2014  5:14pm

Wake up Black folks.This is carrot and stick poltricks.Dan Malloy is in trouble.He needs the Black and latino votes.You will start to see Black and Latino Judas Goat leaders along with judas goat prechers bring Dan Malloy around.Do not fall for this

posted by: FacChec on March 18, 2014  5:42pm

This is a good first step opportunity, however, before I can add to the applude, just where does the balance of 15M come from?

To be sure city taxpayers will be asked to pony up matching funds from it’s overburdened capital bond fund. But beyond that just how does the committee plan re-current operational funds for employees,health benefits, unemployment & etc. 

Both the library and the health center are non-profits who currently report zero profit. In fact the library is a city funded component with no income.

Well beyond the smiles and clamor of these happy faces, important questions must be asked and answered.

If Malloy is re-elected he faces a 2015-16, 2016-17 budget deficit of $1.5B for each year.
If Malloy is not re-elected, say good bye to our hopes and dreams.

New Haven is facing a 753m deficit in it’s current debt, how much more does Perez think the city can finance?

posted by: cp06 on March 18, 2014  6:11pm

What a hideous and completely inappropriate logo for the proposed “Q House.”  Not a good sign!

posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on March 18, 2014  6:12pm

With all the enthusiasm I can expect that you all will be more than interested in helping support and direct this effort.  I am sure this community will be more than joyful of all your help, knowledge and willingness to see this to success.  I mean it’s one thing to offer criticism, it is quite another to be a part of the solution.

Raise your concerns in the spirit of helping.  This is not some other people’s problem.  Clearly you all have identified areas that need shoring up… come with a heart full of support and encouragement.  There is a real need here and some of you all are perhaps very talented people who care deeply about the running of this city.  No matter that you keep yourselves anonymous.  Step from behind your personas and lend a helping hand.

Seriously, this is an effort that folks have given a great deal of time and energy to.  If you have some ideas, come out and share them.

posted by: Noteworthy on March 18, 2014  6:20pm

This is a sad spectacle - a groveling and unpopular politician buying votes with taxpayer money he doesn’t have and we can’t afford; and local politicians who pretend a Q House is the answer to the problem plagued hood. Political leaders have been selling hope on a stick for generations - and look at the results. Catastrophic unemployment and lack of skills among black men; food and job insecurities throughout the neighborhood; 20+% among urban youth; breeding drugs, violence and growing epidemic of heroin addicts and dealers that are spreading their poison not just in their own neighborhoods but across the state. It is a foolish to think a revived Q House pretending to be a library is the answer - it’s disheartening to see people selling this “hope” as if it is the solution when the truth really lies elsewhere. And they know it.

posted by: Shayluv on March 18, 2014  6:42pm

This was a very interesting gathering of people from the community.  $1.million dollars… It’s a start in order for this to become a community entity…as a community we must come together, fund-raise and make certain this building is maintained and sustained. We must ensure that it is a place of safety and respect for the community children as well as whomever else could benefit from what will be offered.  I am excited at the prospects of a new building and new opportunities…

posted by: getyourfactstraight on March 18, 2014  7:08pm

100% accurate Robn. It will once again be the NH taxpayers picking up the tab at some point for this. The black community didn’t support this center and that is why it folded.
Hey, maybe Mayor Harp should ask for some money to get the ice skating rink at the East Shore Park up and running again where many would use that rink. It’s there, just sitting around along with the concession stand. I may not be from the E.Shore but would love to bring my grandchildren there. Oh yes, you say we have one on state street. News Flash, fair is fair, so we have brand new schools that could be used for the same purpose as the Q House would be used for again. Naaaa, lets spend money instead for political gain.

posted by: HewNaven on March 18, 2014  7:21pm

Aren’t these employees represented by different unions and thus have different contractual agreements and pay requirements? For those community schools in New Haven that do have extended hours, (think Wexler Grant for example) you have to have a custodian and security officer on duty. That overtime rate is much higher than paying a library employee whose sets hours are say 5-9pm.

I’m honestly not sure about the logistics of who can work in school buildings and what may be permitted, etc. It just makes sense to use existing, new buildings (i.e. schools) instead of constructing new ‘community centers’ in every neighborhood. Surely, Dixwell/Newhallville is not the only neighborhood in need of a place like the Q House. It would be a shame if contracts, or any other rules, prohibited using our schools in this way. It seems much more practical than new construction.

posted by: HewNaven on March 18, 2014  7:27pm

Lots of great history here…

Thanks for the link, robn!

posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on March 18, 2014  11:14pm

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This is a total waste of taxpayer money. Provide the services and community outreach by making it an extension of the schools.

The timing is dubious.

The career politicians need to go - Perez,  Harp and Malloy - they’re so used to pushing the same buttons that they are unable to come up with anything creative… really sickening how they throw a few bones to the most vulnerable at election time.

posted by: Bradley on March 19, 2014  6:33am

Does anyone have any idea where the operating funds will come from?  Having a facility that is open 18 hours per day would be great, but this presumes there will be adults in the building during this time, most whom (understandably) will want to be paid.

posted by: IloveMYcity203 on March 19, 2014  9:34am

the “Q” would be good for that area, but I am not buying it! Where was Danny boy with his support for the “Q” house before it was time for reelection? Harp already wants to raise taxes, so how is this going to get paid? Oh wait!?!? Just take us NewHaveners more.

The sad part is people who don’t know anything about anything are going to say, “He supports the “Q” house, so I am voting for him!” Just like he proposed to raise the minimum wage to 10/hr by 2017! Oh, so we have to vote you in Danny boy and hope that you follow through!?

New Haven gets it wrong ever time it’s voting season, and I’m sure they’ll get it wrong this time. Should be interesting to say the least!

posted by: InformedOpinion123 on March 19, 2014  11:05am

So once again the city, and now the state, is throwing money at a physical structure instead of an organization that is actually qualified to design, implement and manage programs for youth! The Q House did not close because the building deteriorated. THE Q HOUSE CLOSED BECAUSE IT WAS POORLY MANAGED, BOTH FINANCIALLY AND PROGRAMMATICALLY! Throwing $1 million at the structure does not answer the most important question - WHO IS GOING TO RUN IT?!?

If the City is going to take responsibility for running it then that’s a terrible decision. The Youth Services Department is headed by someone with NO YOUTH SERVICES EXPERIENCE and who will probably not last past one term. And we have plenty of physical structures around the city for youth services. The aldermen just finished a comprehensive study of these buildings last year! What happened to that report?!?! What happened to conversations about the Armory? This Administration just seems to have its gears in motion to move forward with NO CLUE as to where they are going or what has already been done!

The bottom line is this – if the Q House is not properly managed, it will close - again. And quite frankly, that $1 million could have gone to countless other youth service organizations that have the expertise and have already proven their ability to have a positive impact on youth in the City. It could have also gone to the NHPS open schools program. They already have the physical structures – schools – in neighborhoods around the city but lack the funding to properly staff programs and keep their doors open until 8pm. This is nothing but a political move pure and simple and I couldn’t be more disappointed in this Administration. Not one decision has been made for the best interest of the City.

posted by: robn on March 19, 2014  11:12am

$1M is 7% of a $15M total budget. This sounds somewhat high for a total design fee, never mind a “pre-development” fee that the NHI quoted (presumably from Mayor Harp). Is this percentage in line with recent school construction projects? Does the State Bonding Commission even ask these kind of questions?

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on March 19, 2014  4:32pm

Is this $1 million gesture tinged with election year politics? Absolutely.  Does the city need the money? Absolutely.

However, since the Governor’s on Dixwell Ave. passing out money, there’s a program called Believe In Me that has been doing a fantastic job infiltrating the huge social needs in the community.  A program with proven leadership in both Newhallville and in the Dixwell area.  Hey Governor, are you going to pay them a financial visit also?

I’m not hating on the great work Alderwoman Morrison has done by keeping the Q House at the forefront of every argument since she’s been Alderwoman.  Nor Mrs. Bracey, in whom I’ve know since I was a toddler.  My concern is with the current negative activity that exist on the city streets in that area.  This project is 3-5 years out, if at all.  So what’s the alternative until the grand opening Mayor?

Clearly the Q House has always been symbolic to the black community, and for that I applaud Gov. Malloy, Mayor Harp, Alderman Perez, Mrs. Jackie Bracey and again Alderwoman Morrison for this collective effort.

If elected officials can proudly stand up and embrace the public credit given to them for their accomplishments, then they should also standup proudly and accept the criticism for their failures.

I pride myself on being consistent with my recrimination, as well as when the need arises to give praise.