2010-dewey-family-focus-2080710

Family Focus officials tonight will seek to have the Preservation Commission loosen proposed restrictions on potential redevelopment of the former Foster School property at 2010 Dewey Ave. in Evanston.

The commission voted in July to recommend landmark status for the building, while acknowledging that nothing remains of the original 1905 school built on the site.

Bridget O’Keefe, an attorney for Family Focus, a non-profit that has operated its social programs from the building for decades, says the agency is opposed to the landmark designation.

But if the building is to be landmarked, she says, the designation should specify that it only applies to the exterior of the building and not to the interior or to surrounding vacant land on the site.

She’s also asking that only the east facade of the building be considered a primary elevation and that new additions should be allowed on the roof or to any of the other sides of the building.

Family Focus says it’s unable to fund repairs to the building and that the prospect of a landmark designation has scared off potential buyers of the property.

The group says it hopes to continue its operations at the facility once a new owner is found. Family Focus has been renting space in the building to other not-for-profits at rents that have failed to generate sufficient revenue to maintain it. The group says the building is now only about 40 percent occupied.

Advocates of landmarking the property cite the former school’s role as an anchor of Evanston’s black community before it closed in the late 1970s.

Some community activists have proposed forming a new entity to purchase the building, but haven’t demonstrated that they have the financial resources to buy the property or make its operation self-sustaining.

The Preservation Commission will send its recommendation to the City Council for final action.

Related stories

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Leave a comment

The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.