More than 24 residents shared their vision for improvements to the Family Focus building, 2010 Dewey Ave., in a lively discussion at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, March 15.

Chicago-based group Cotter Consulting presented a series of configurations for the historic site, including improvements to the HVAC, new programs including STEM classes and the addition of a new auditorium.

“The number one thing was that [people] want to see is a multi-purpose space for engaging in STEM learning,” said Henry Wilkins, a representative for the Amplifying Black Voices research project. The group surveyed more than 400 Black residents last summer to learn the community’s needs with regard to educational services in Evanston.

The firm also suggested expanding health support services at the site, with community members showing support for the move.

“Anything with mental health and health support is definitely a plus,” said Paul Mark Wallace, a solutions architect and Evanston resident.

Credit: Evan Girard

Family Focus, the nonprofit organization that first leased the property in 1983 and has purchased it since, currently runs childcare programs at the facility. The nonprofit received $3 million in ARPA funding last July to renovate the building.

Built in 1905, the site formerly housed the Foster School and is part of the proposed 5th Ward school campus.

The Wednesday discussion was the second community meeting to gather input, with the project currently in the planning and design stage, said Keisha Johnson, vice president of buildings at Cotter Consulting.

Based on the input so far, the consultant identified five priorities for the building:

  • Early childhood spaces and resources
  • Flexible work and meeting spaces
  • Education/STEM services
  • Support services, including a health clinic and welcome center
  • Existing space improvements

Evanston resident Dino Robinson asked whether there’s a public timeline for the renovation project. While the renovation has a tentative 2025 deadline, according to Family Focus CFO Dottie Johnson, more work needs to done.

“We want to make sure that we’re taking all the appropriate steps. We can’t do that without a more in-depth assessment of the building,” said Dara Munson, the nonprofit’s president and chief executive officer.

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Manan Bhavnani

Prior to joining the RoundTable, Manan Bhavnani covered business and technology for the International Business Times, with a focus on mergers, earnings and governance. He is a double Medill graduate, with...

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