Family Focus asked a city committee Tuesday night for $3 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act to renovate its Evanston property at 2010 Dewey Ave.

The funding would be part of a planned $11.1 million two-phase project to renovate the building, initially constructed in 1905 as Foster School.

As the city’s population grew, the school came to serve the predominantly Black 5th Ward.

In the late 1960s the school was converted to a magnet school and in the 1970s, during a wave of school closings, the magnet school program was moved to the former Skiles Junior High School and the Foster School building was closed.

In the 1980s Family Focus leased space in the building and later acquired it from the school district.

Family Focus President Dara Munson and other representatives of the organization said the renovation project would address myriad systemic inequities for the families that depend on programs from Family Focus and its not-for-profit tenants in the building.

“Equity is at the core of all we do,” Munson said, adding that the organization, which until recently had been considering selling the building while maintaining programs in Evanston “has an unwavering commitment to 5th Ward residents.”

Family Focus says it serves more than 635 people a year in its own programs in Evanston, and other agencies in the building serve roughly 3,000 to 4,000 more.

Members of the Housing and Community Development Committee expressed some concerns that plans for the second phase of the project were not very fully developed and that the amount requested from the city marginally exceeded the city’s guideline that no more than 25% of a project’s funding should come from ARPA funds.

But they appeared generally favorably inclined toward the project. The committee is scheduled to make a recommendation to the City Council about the Family Focus proposal at the next committee meeting on June 21.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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