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Plans Revealed for Dixwell Plaza Revitalization in New Haven

NBC Universal, Inc.

A project that will revitalize New Haven’s Dixwell neighborhood is moving forward. ConnCORP has released the plans for what will replace Dixwell Plaza and it includes housing, a grocery store, a food hall, apartments and a theater.

“We wanted to bring economic infrastructure to that historic black community,” said Erik Clemons, executive chairman of ConnCORP. It’s a spin off from his organization ConnCAT, which offers community, youth and adult programs in arts and technology.

ConnCORP is expanding that vision beyond helping people grow. Now, they want to help improve the communities of the people who use ConnCAT programs and the residents of New Haven.

“What if those folks had an entrepreneurial spirit? What if they wanted to own a home or work in that community? We wanted to create a space for them to really live out their dreams and hopes,” said Clemons.

ConnCORP now owns the entire block of Dixwell Plaza with demolition expected to begin this fall.

“No problem because I know what they’re about. I’ve been over there,” said Troy Little, of New Haven, who is familiar with ConnCAT’s programs. Although he’s seen the work ConnCAT has done for people, he’s also seen a lot of turnover in the neighborhood and the plaza.

“They can come, just as long as they help out,” Little said.

That’s what Clemons says they plan to do. He says they’ve attended as many community meetings as possible in the last two years.  

“What we heard from the community was they wanted and needed housing, they wanted early childhood - quality early childhood, healthy food options,” Clemons said.

All of that is planned for the new Conncat Place on Dixwell, including a community theater planned as a nod to the historic arts and culture of Dixwell. Both the New Haven Library's Stetson Branch and the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center will move across the street to the new Q-House.

“I think I would like it. Me personally, yeah, I would like it,” said Karen Barrow, of New Haven.  

She has lived in the Dixwell area all her life and says there really isn’t much for people to do in the neighborhood. So, the idea of something new coming to Dixwell Plaza is exciting.

“If they tear this down, we’ll have the grocery store. People that live over here don’t have to go way over to other places, they can just walk over,” Barrow said.

Clemons says this project is important because it’s part of the social contract he believes in that says those that have the ability to help should do more to help others.

“The fact of the matter is we are doing this because it is just the right thing to do not because we will make money,” Clemons said.

He says they fully own the property and demolition will start this fall or early next year. He expects it to take five years to complete.

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