LITTLE VILLAGE — After raising $2 million over the last year and a half, a Little Village-based nonprofit is on track with its plan to convert an abandoned library into an office and community space on Cermak Road.
Latinos Progresando, a nonprofit that provides legal aid for immigrants, has raised 80 percent of the funding for a planned adaptive reuse of the old Marshall Square Library building at 2724 W. Cermak Rd.
The community development group, which works on a range of issues including immigration, health, peace and education, wants to convert the former library into a new office, with space for their legal services and the community by next year.
Latinos Progresando is working with Canopy / Architecture + Design.
The library “has always been a space for the community to enjoy, and learn and get together to build positive things…[This plan aims] to get it back to that — a space that is giving back to the community and being offered up to the community,” Luis Gutierrez, CEO and founder of Latinos Progresando, said.
As part of the plan, the 9,300-square-foot area will have legal services on the first floor, with offices for the organizations’ various initiatives as part of the Marshall Square Resource Network. The second floor will include conference rooms and a larger space for “community-wide programming,” Gutierrez said.
Esperanza Health Centers and the Lincoln Park Zoo will rent out space in the building as well.
Esperanza Health Centers will provide mental health services and work with nearby schools, while the Lincoln Park Zoo will expand its nature-based educational work at nearby schools on the Southwest Sides. Gutierrez said he believes the project will enhance and “deepen their programming” in the neighborhood.
Currently located at 3047 W. Cermak Road, the nonprofit expects to move its offices into the new building dubbed the Latinos Progresando Community Center by spring 2021.
The Marshall Square library branch closed in November 2009 and was replaced with the Little Village branch, 2311 S. Kedzie Ave., when it opened in 2011.
In 2018, Latinos Progresando was approved for a grant up to $250,000 through the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund. Now, the organization will launch a $500,000 capital campaign in spring to raise the remaining funds for the project.
The group is working to finalize the acquisition of the building from the city, said Adrienne Lange, the organization’s chief advancement officer.
Latinos Progresando was founded in Pilsen before moving to Little Village, where it has been offering immigration resources since 1998.
“We’ve been around for 22 years. We’ve spent decades focused on the quality of services we provide … and growing our partnerships,” Lange said. “This center will be a physical representation of that work.”
The plan for the building was spurred, in part, by a lack of community meeting space and outgrowing their current office space, Gutierrez said.
When walking in neighborhood, coming across an empty building, a condo building or a community center, each conjures a different feeling for community members, he said.
“A community center is meant to be a place that’s inviting, where you can stop by and get help on a variety of things. If we can’t do something, we have 40 partners in the community in walking distance that can help with something.”
This space is “about making sure we are offering as many opportunities in our community to live happy and successful lives,” he added.
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