Aldermen approve lease for Howard Street nonprofit dance, fitness studio


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) speaks at a council meeting on Monday. Aldermen approved a lease agreement for the nonprofit dance and fitness studio Hip Circle Empowerment Center.

Samantha Handler, Assistant City Editor

Aldermen approved Monday a five-year lease and $25,000 loan agreement with a nonprofit on Howard Street aimed at empowering women through fitness and dance.

Hip Circle Empowerment Center was previously located in the Main-Dempster Mile business district, but will soon open at 727 Howard St. The center offers dance and fitness classes as well as community events including belly-dancing, pilates, knitting circles and business empowerment group sessions, the center’s founder Malik Turley told The Daily.

“The variety of what we do is incredibly vast,” Turley said. “The thing that is the same across the board is that it’s all for women or girls.”

Turley — who, according to city documents, has been an active member in the Evanston Chamber of Commerce and Black Business Consortium of Evanston/Northshore — said she decided to move to Howard Street because it will increase the center’s size, allowing the business to run multiple classes at the same time.

Turley added that she has been a big proponent of the businesses on Howard Street and is excited to join them so the center can bring a “nonprofit flair” to an area where most businesses sell food or drinks.

She first opened the nonprofit on the Main-Dempster Mile eight years ago, and said she plans to stay in Evanston in the future as well.

“I’m from Evanston…,” Turley said. “We opened in Evanston. We’ve only ever been in Evanston. I’m very much ‘team Evanston.’”

Donna Wang Su — who previously served on the Minority, Women and Evanston Business Enterprise Development Committee — said the center is “more than just a fitness center” and has the support of local organizations.

Su said the center is only taking bids from Evanston companies and businesses for the construction contracts.

“I really want to highlight the fact that we should be trying to keep Evanston dollars in Evanston,” Su said.

The storefront was one of two that the city put up for sale to businesses that would bring “vitality” and daytime traffic to the area, according to city documents.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said she is excited that Turley wanted to rent the space because the center is “very popular” in Evanston.

“Hopefully she’ll be so attractive somebody will want to rent the other half or she’ll get so important she’ll expand,” Rainey said. “We’ve been pretty lucky on Howard Street, and maybe we’ll get lucky with her too.”

Economic development manager Paul Zalmezak said the loan was set up so the city could sell the space in the event that something changes with the lease agreement.

However, Turley said her long-term plan is to stay on Howard Street.

“The five-year lease is really only the beginning,” she said. “We’re hoping to be in a position where we can become that buyer and stay there forever.”

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Twitter: @sn_handler