May 08--NEW HAVEN -- A vision of a garden with outdoor chess tables leading up to a community center with a local coffee shop, library, health center and museum emerged Wednesday night as community members made their voices heard in the final public hearing before a request for qualifications for the Q House is posted.
The hearing at Wexler-Grant School Wednesday night was one of several in the last year, but the crowd displayed a special excitement with a concrete timeline for redevelopment finally before them.
Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison said Mayor Toni Harp wanted to have the hearing to keep the community up-to-date with the Q House "step by step by step."
"The Q House really is something that belongs in our community, in everyone's heart," Harp said. "Everyone has a real strong feeling about what kind of difference it made in their lives, the lives of their children, and really in the lives of this community."
The old Q House closed in 2003 because of lack of money to sustain the facility. The city purchased the building to avoid foreclosure. In 2012, the state allocated $40,000 for a feasibility study on rehabilitating or rebuilding the center. From the committee evolved a recommendation to build a 50,126-square-foot facility to house both the Q House and Stetson Library. The preliminary price tag is $13.4 million.
Earlier this year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced $1 million in state funds to start the revitalization of the center.
Morrison said now that there is money available, people are knocking down the door trying to get involved with the new center.
"Everyone wants to be a part of history," she said.
The RFQ will be posted on the city's website Thursday and after about three weeks the building committee will conduct interviews and narrow the list down to three candidates, according to City Youth Director Jason Bartlett. Those candidates will draft proposals with dollar figures attached. An architect should be in place by July, and by October, a final product should be completed to submit to the state, Bartlett said.
While nothing about the design of the building is set in stone, the inclusion of the Stetson Branch Library, an cultural museum, a health center and plenty of multi-purpose space surfaced as key aspects of the new center.
"We are of this neighborhood, we want to see the Q-House come back," said Cornell Scott Hill Health Center Chief Operations Officer Lou Brady.
Brady said utilizing space in the new Q House would allow the health center to expand their hours and operations. The space would house eight exam rooms, social workers and operate evening and weekend hours, he said.
Sean Garris, former executive director of the old Q House, suggested a food pantry, an enclosed garage for transportation, programming for the population with special needs and some type of retail such as a coffee or sandwich shop to generate revenue.
City architectural capital projects coordinator William MacMullen agreed with Garris and said a local coffee shop in the center would generate foot traffic. MacMullen said other ideas such as a pool or gymnasium have been thrown out there but it's important to be resourceful and utilize the existent city schools. For instance, there is a public swimming pool less than a mile away at James Hillhouse High School, he said. Additionally, the Wexler-Grant gymnasium faces the back of the Q House site and can potentially be linked to the building so people will be able to move from the center to the gymnasium without going outside.
To provide sustainability for the new center, tenants such as the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center and library will pay rent, said Aldermanic President Jorge Perez. Perez said there is also be another committee set up to help grow an existent endowment of about $85,000.
Jackie Downing, who worked and volunteered in the old Q House for about ten years, said she is happy to see the plans coming to fruition. Downing said the Q House symbolized a place of mutual "respect." The adults at the center "earned" the respect of the youth, and the youth demanded respect from the adults, she said.
She added, "There was trouble in the neighborhood, never in the Q House."
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