Inside the new Q House on Dixwell Avenue, Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison is making plans for the grand opening ceremony next Saturday.
It’s the final stretch of her ten-year mission to bring the community center back to her Dixwell neighborhood.
“One of the things I always said to myself, I said I wish I could do something about that Q House, even before I thought about being alder,” said Morrison who grew up in the Newhallville section and has lived in Dixwell for 28 years.
The Q House closed in 2003, leaving a void in the neighborhood and the city of New Haven. Morrison said as soon as she was elected in 2011, she began working with community groups and leaders to figure out how to bring it back.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
Morrison explained the original Q House was built in 1924 at a time when Blacks flooded to New Haven to work at the Winchester Repeating Arms factory. It was a hub for new city residents of color.
For decades, it was a place for people to gather for community events and activities. When it closed in 2003, Morrison said the community lost its anchor.
“So, when you’re missing your anchor, you’re all over the place. And that’s what we’ve seen over the last 18 years,” Morrison said. “When the Q House left, you started to see this big increase in crime and violence and things of that sort. And I know in my heart that this building is going to start to decrease that.”
The revived Dixwell Community House, or Q House, has 54,000 square feet of space with room for planned activities for everyone, from children to seniors.
“The building makes amazing things possible. So, we have a full-size gym here, we have a teaching kitchen, we have a dance studio, we have an art studio as well,” said Henry Fernandez, the executive director of LEAP. The New Haven organization provides youth programs across the city and will lead activities at the Q House.
“We have a great group of community-based providers. Dance instructors, people who provide instructions in the arts, computer learning that we’ve been working with for many, many years,” Fernandez said.
He added that local high school and college students will also be hired to lead programs. The center has a ballet room, recording studio, game room and a museum. The New Haven Public Library’s Stetson branch directly across the street will soon relocate to the building, and Cornell Scott Hill Health Center has a new location in the back of the building. The Dixwell Newhallville Senior Center will now have a permanent location as well.
“When we think about the partners who are here, whether that’s Stetson Library, or the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, or the Dixwell Newhallville Senior Center, as well as LEAP, all of those partners have great track records of doing amazing work in the city,” Fernandez said.
The building has an African village design feel, the vision of Regina Winters who was the first Black woman to lead an architecture firm in the state of Connecticut. She passed away five years ago, but Fernandez and Morrison say her design touches are seen and felt throughout the building.
The Q House was funded by $15 million in state funds with additional money from the city. The ribbon-cutting will be held Saturday, Oct. 30, and activities will begin over the next few months.
More details will be posted on the center’s website.