A group of community residents are hoping to persuade the city to designate the Family Focus building at 2010 Dewey Ave. as a local landmark as part of an effort to maintain it as a home for social service agencies.
Former 5th Ward alderman Delores Holmes, at a ward meeting Thursday night, said the group is working with the Evanston Community Foundation to become a 501(c)3 non-profit that could accept contributions for the project, but she said it’s a month or two away from having the paperwork in place to do that.
“We can take your name, if you’d like to donate, but we’re not taking any money yet,” Holmes told residents at the meeting.
Family Focus, which acquired the building from School District 65 after the district closed the former Foster School, announced last summer that it no longer had the resources to support the cost of maintaining the building, portions of which are nearly a century old.
Family Focus, which was founded in Evanston 43 years ago, now operates seven social service centers around the metro area. Except for the Evanston site, they’re all in rented space.
In addition to operating its own programs in the Evanston building, the organization has rented space in its Evanston location to several other non-profit groups — but the income from that has failed to produce enough revenue to cover needed repairs.
Family Focus President and CEO Merri Ex said the organization has put its plans to market the building for sale on hold to give the community fundraising effort time to continue.
She said Family Focus hasn’t taken a position yet on the landmarking proposal. “We need to think about it and talk to our advisory board,” Ex said.
The landmark request submitted by Dino Robinson of the Shorefront Legacy Center, says the original Foster School building was constructed in 1903.
It was demolished after a fire in 1958. The current building, Robinson says, consists of 1926 and 1931 additions to the north of the original building that survived the fire and a 1960 replacement for the original structure.
At the request of the agency, a Preservation Commission hearing on the landmark proposal was postponed from this week until March 13.
Landmarking, while it has the potential to qualify a property for some grants and tax benefits, also can impose severe restrictions on the potential uses of a property and sharply escalate the cost of renovation projects.
The City Council, faced last summer with a proposal to landmark a property on Hinman Avenue over the objections of the property owner, rejected the landmark designation.
Holmes said the community group’s goal is to keep the building owned by the community and “keep all the great non-profits” that are housed there in the community.
Holmes is the former long-time director of Family Focus operations in Evanston.