Pictured left to right: Evanston Chamber of Commerce Director Elaine Kemna-Irish, Darragh Griffin from Wintrust Bank, Business Manager of Heartwood Terri Clemens, Edward Bettenhausen from Wintrust Bank, Dr. Rowena Chua (Heartwood practitioner), Alderman Peter Braithwaite, Founder of Heartwood Nancy Floy, John Hunt from Wintrust Bank, Senior Economic Development Coordinator with the City of Evanston Paul Zalmezak, Jennifer Engel of Chicago’s North Shore Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, and Dickelle Fonda, nearby business owner.  RoundTable photo

A parking lot could seem like a modest place for a ribbon-cutting, but for the staff and practitioners at Heartwood Center for Mind and Spirit, 1818 Dempster St., it represented another step toward the vision of a “healing corridor.”

 “This is a big day for me,” said Nancy Floy, who founded Heartwood 14 years ago and remains its president and owner. “Some of you may remember that when we went before City Council a few years ago to ask for a loan,” she said, “some aldermen were uncertain.” “One alderman even said to me, ‘You will fail,’ but we paid the loan off five years early,” she said.

Heartwood purchased the parking lot and the house adjacent to it. Across the street, Heartwood purchased the Perla Café building and the house adjacent to it and is considering purchasing the next two in line.  But Ms. Floy has her eyes on more. Looking east and west from Heartwood, 1818 Dempster St., Ms. Floy says she sees the potential for a “healing corridor” there between Dodge and Darrow avenues.

“I’m tired of hearing about violence along the ‘Dodge Corridor,’ she said. She pointed to the new Starbuck’s just west of there on Dempster Street, the change of hands at nearby Evanston Plaza and the arrival of Curt’s Café South as examples of the change in the area.

The Perla Café building, which formerly housed Pick-a-Cup Café, is slated to become Curt’s Café South, a work/learn model for teen mothers. Ms. Floy told the RoundTable that Susan Trieschmann, founder and operator of Curt’s Café on Central Street, said she would sign a lease for the café as soon has Heartwood had raised enough money for three months of operating expenses. “We fully intend to get that café up and running in the next few months,” said Ms. Floy.

The manager of the Heartwood property will move with his family into the house next to the café. “They will move from a garden apartment to a three-bedroom home,” Ms. Floy said. She said she plans to keep the rent affordable on this house and on the other two, once they are purchased.

The Heartwood building, the parking lot, the café building and the home on the north side of Dempster Street will remain on the tax rolls. Only the building immediately west of the present Heartwood will be off the tax rolls as a not-for-profit. That building will house the Heartwood Foundation’s Tsogyaling Meditation Center of Evanston, teaching ancient Tibetan Buddhist meditation. 

Ms. Floy’s vision is within and without. Mediation, tai chi, acupuncture, chiropractic massage and other holistic health services are housed at Heartwood. But she also is finding ways to nurture the neighborhood.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...