Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Misdemeanor charges dropped against NU faculty for activity during pro-Palestinian encampment
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Haner: A love letter to the multimedia room

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Independent review of athletics department released, puts forth key recommendations

Northwestern hosts groundbreaking ceremony at Ryan Field construction site

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Derrick Gragg appointed as Northwestern’s vice president for athletic strategy, search for new athletic director begins

June 13, 2024


The secret (and short) lives of cicadas on campus

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Everything Evanston: Behind the boba in downtown Evanston

New South End Community Center in Evanston offers inclusive haven for families

Audrey Pachuta/ The Daily Northwestern
A “coming soon” sign on the corner of Asbury Avenue and Oakton Street advertises the opening of Evanston’s newest community center.

Lindsey White’s eyes lit up as she recalled her recent visit to Evanston’s South End Community Center’s open house. As a stay-at-home mom of three, she said she had explored every corner of the newly unveiled space, envisioning countless opportunities for her children. 

“It was really great,” White said. “I thought it would be a great revenue source for the city, and I was excited to see what kind of programming they would have.” 

Her excitement had been palpable, but she said what had truly touched her was the sensory room—a haven designed for children like her neurodiverse son. 

“He loved it in there,” White said with a smile. “We spent a full hour just exploring and relaxing. It was such a relief to see him comfortable and engaged.”

For White, and many others, these inclusive spaces weren’t just amenities — they were lifelines of understanding and support.

In January, the city of Evanston purchased the building at the corner of Asbury Avenue and Oakton Street in the 9th ward, formerly housing Little Beans Cafe — a popular family cafe and children’s activity hub. 

Now, just over five months later, the South End Community Center is getting ready to open its doors to the public for the first time in mid-July. The center will welcome everyone but will particularly emphasize creating accessible spaces and serving disabled communities.

“We want all of our buildings to be accessible,” said Lauren Ruiz, inclusion and accessibility division manager for the City of Evanston. “I think the timing of when the building became available for purchase just worked for our needs.”

The facility underwent significant upgrades, including a freshly repainted interior, new gym equipment and soon-to-launch gymnastics programs. These improvements are a direct result of community feedback, gathered through QR codes and suggestion forms at the open house.

Through QR code surveys, the community identified the importance of a sliding scale payment system. Many residents said they enjoyed visiting Little Beans Cafe but found it challenging to afford, particularly those with larger families. The city plans to implement a new system, offering 75 percent off for children receiving free school lunch and a 50 percent discount for those receiving reduced-price lunch.

Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th)  said he was pleasantly surprised by the community’s strong turnout and engagement at the open house. He estimated that around 870 attendees participated and provided valuable feedback.

“I initially had planned to be there for one or two hours, and other than sneaking out to take a meeting in the afternoon, I was there all day,” he said. 

Looking ahead, the center plans to introduce additional amenities such as a drive-thru cafe, karate classes, pickleball courts, and a space dedicated to ecological education. City officials hope the center will serve as a vital community hub — hosting ward meetings and providing early childhood education programs starting as soon as August or September.

Michael Schram said he is excited for the transformation of a familiar southwest Evanston corner into a community center. As a resident of the city for 53 years, Schram has witnessed the location transition from a grocery store to an Osco drug store and, most recently, to Little Beans Cafe. He said he looks forward to the site continuing to serve the community in its new role.

Schram said he went to nearby Dawes Elementary School in the mid-’50s and early-’60s. 

“To see the youth in this community, especially in the 9th ward, gathering now in the same way we did back then — it’s just exciting,” he said. 

Email: [email protected]

X: @AudreyPachuta

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