Adding a welcoming warmth to the relocated Heartwood Center. Photo courtesy of the Heartwood Center

Heartwood Center for Body Mind Spirit, a community-based organization committed to providing holistic healthcare in Evanston for the past 12 years, has purchased and renovated the building at 1818 Dempster St. near the Dempster-Dodge intersection. The opening of Heartwood Center in its new location is a hopeful sign in a weak economy. It represents the expansion of a small business and, to many members of the Dempster-Dodge community, signals the beginning of a much-needed rejuvenation of the neighborhood.

The building was in foreclosure when Heartwood president Nancy Floy and her husband and business partner, Asang, walked into the abandoned building with their real estate agent. After eight years of searching for the perfect space, Ms. Floy and Asang say they knew this was the right place for Heartwood Center. Rather than be discouraged by the vacant stores surrounding 1818 Dempster, Ms. Floy, and Asang were inspired. They saw it as an opportunity to infuse new life into the neighborhood.

“We are really proud to be a part of the Dempster-Dodge community,” says Ms. Floy who, with Asang, recently moved into a home just one block away. “We live in this neighborhood, we work in this neighborhood, and we believe in this neighborhood.”

“I appreciate the diversity and rich culture of this part of Evanston,” says Asang, who left Tibet in 2000 and has called Evanston his home for the past four years.

The doors opened for business on Aug. 30 after months of renovation. A grant from the City of Evanston through the Community Development Block Grant Program of the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development gave Heartwood Center the financial capability to dramatically change the run-down façade
of the building. The freshly laid brick exterior, new windows and a recently planted front garden welcome visitors to the center.

“It has been a real Evanston effort to get this place in shape,” says Ms. Floy. “The support from the City, First Bank and Trust and our alderman, Lionel Jean-Baptiste has been incredible.”

“The owners of Heartwood and their partners have brought a vision and a level of energy that will serve as a catalyst to invigorate the Dempster-Dodge business district, including the plaza,” says Alderman Jean-Baptiste (second ward). “I’m excited.”

Of the 12,200 square feet of interior space, 5,000 square feet are utilized by Heartwood Center. The 7,200 remaining square feet is rented to the non-profit Evanston Building Material Resource Center, owned by long-time Evanston general contractor Lou Dickson.

“It’s an ideal partnership” says Ms. Floy. “Heartwood is a holistic healthcare center that offers healing for bodies, and Lou’s non-profit business offers healing for the planet by finding ways to re-use building materials and ultimately keep them out of the landfills.”

The Evanston Building Material Resource Center will officially open its doors in early 2011, but is accepting donated materials now.

Heartwood Center consists of 11 treatment rooms featuring natural light and a yoga/tai chi studio with hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows and exposed brick walls.

The center offers a wide array of therapies and classes and has been at the forefront of holistic health care for the past 12 years.

“We offer acupuncture, massage, psychotherapy and classes in tai chi, yoga and meditation,” says Terri Clemens, chief operating officer at Heartwood. “Our practitioners are truly some of the best in the nation.”

The new storefront location allows greater access
to the community and is wheelchair accessible. Street parking is free and plentiful.  Heartwood Center serves an estimated 500 clients and students every week, bringing people from all over Evanston and beyond into the neighborhood.

Dickelle Fonda of the Dewey-Darrow Neighborhood Association welcomes Heartwood Center to the area.

“What they are doing is revolutionary,” says Ms. Fonda, who has lived and worked nearby for over 30 years. “For years, this building housed a printing shop whose owners would chain link the doors and windows at night.  It projected fear. Nancy and Asang reach out to the community.  The energy is now about acceptance and generosity, not fear.”

Ms. Fonda says Ms. Floy and Asang noticed students congregating outside the Center waiting for the bus. Ms. Floy approached the students, talked with them and asked them what they needed. There is now a bench outside the Center for public use.

“For us, it’s about taking what we do within these walls and expanding it out into the community,” says Ms. Floy.  “Hopefully, people walking by cannot just see, but feel what we do.”