Evanston panel mulls Heartwood Center’s request for $100,000 to expand
Heartwood Center Nancy Floy addresses members of the city's Economic Development Committee Wednesday night about the center's for city Tax Increment Finance assistance to expand the center which is regarded as a bright spot in the Dempster-Dodge area. (Bob Seidenberg\Staff Writer)
The applicant: The Heartwood Center for Body Mind Spirit, at 1818 Dempster St.
About the business: The center serves as membership organization for practitioners or teachers of acupuncture, psychotherapy, bodywork, massage therapy and t’ai chi, yoga and meditation.
What Heartwood is seeking: : Nancy Floy, the founder and owner of Heartwood, has drafted a preliminary proposal seeking a grant of $100,000 from the West Evanston Tax Increment Finance District to go with a $250,000 expansion of Heartwood.
Floy says the assistance will allow her to build out the estimated 6,500 square feet of warehouse space next door so she can accommodate a wait list of over 40 practitioners and teachers.
Next move: The issue will go back to the city’s Economic Development Committee for more discussion. Eventually, the City Council will vote on whether to approve the proposal.
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:11AM
EVANSTON — The Heartwood Center, a bright spot in the Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue area, would receive city assistance for expanding into an adjacent warehouse space under a plan that received support Wednesday from a City Council committee.
Some Economic Development Committee members, however, want additional details about the center’s request for $100,000 in tax increment finance assistance from the city -- at 40 percent of the total $250,000 expansion project, higher than officials like to commit.
But committee members and a full crowd of Heartwood supporters in the audience Wednesday acknowledged the role Heartwood has played in the community since moving into the 1818 Dempster St. building.
Supporters say Heartwood solidified that side of the street, which previously had seen a currency exchange and a Pay Day loan office move in as mainline businesses.
“You really saved that area,” said 8th Ward Alderman Ann Rainey, addressing Nancy Floy, the founder and owner of Heartwood. “It could have been really bad.”
Floy established Heartwood Center in 1999. Heartwood is a membership organization for practitioners or teachers of acupuncture, psychotherapy, body work, massage therapy and t’ai chi, yoga and meditation.
Floy, who also lives in the area, moved the business to the Dempster site in 2010, leasing half of the 12,000 square feet, with the Evanston ReBuilding Warehouse leasing the other half.
With the ReBuilding Warehouse moving out to occupy bigger space -- a success story of its own -- Floy sought assistance to build out the vacated space to accommodate a waiting list of more than 40 practitioners and teachers, bringing the total to 80 upon completion, staff said in a memo.
Wednesday night, Floy told committee members,” I’m a half-glass-full person. I see it as an opportunity for Heartwood and more important as an opportunity for you.”
She said the expansion plan would bring in another 500 more people a week into the area, some potential customers for the Evanston Plaza shopping center, which the city is trying to revitalize.
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and others in the audience spoke in support of the assistance plan going through.
The city has “a unique opportunity” to help an expanding business, said Braithwaite. Moreover, “if we did nothing we still have to build out” the vacated warehouse space.
Dickelle Fonda, a longtime activist in the area, and a psychotherapist, noted that city officials have put recent stress recently on promoting the arts.
Heartwood specializes in the healing arts, she said. She said the contribution the center makes to the community is invaluable.
At-large committee member Raymond Zenkich asked Floy what she would do if the city turned down her request for a loan.
In such a case, Floy said “I could keep Heartwood open for about eight months,” but without help at that point, “I would have to put the building up for sale.”
Rainey and others didn’t sound like the city would allow the business to get to that point. Rainey, who once worked across the street from Heartwood, remembered when the area housed a thriving business district.
The city’s mission, besides seeking new businesses, she noted, “Is to help people expand. Not keep them here, but expand,” emphasized the alderman.
Staff is expected to bring the proposal back to the committee, with answers to some questions committee members raised, in September.
If approved by committee, the matter would then go to the full City Council for action.