This coming spring, the growing Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families may double its space for clients, in a planned move that will allow the C Fresh Market neighborhood grocery store to expand.    

Des Moines Area Community College’s board will decide next week whether to approve a deal to purchase Anawim’s current administrative building at 1171 Seventh St., which is located just east of the Urban Campus. The nonprofit organization acquired the 23,000-square-foot building from Planned Parenthood of the Heartland less than two years ago. 

The Evelyn K. Davis Center, launched six years ago in a former grocery store space at 801 University Ave., has grown from a single employee — director Marvin DeJear — to a staff of 18 that serves an average of 5,000 unique clients annually. 

“It’s exceeded everybody’s expectations on success,” said DMACC President Rob Denson. “We’ve been out of room for a while in our current facility.”  

DMACC plans to sell the 801 University property to C Fresh Market for $700,000, which will enable the grocery store to expand into the north section of the building that now houses the Davis Center. DMACC hopes to move the Davis Center into the new space during spring break. 

Russ Frazier, president of Anawim Housing, said his organization is in the process of evaluating its relocation options and hasn’t made any decisions.  

“We were happy to work with DMACC and the Evelyn K. Davis Center to bring together a great campus environment [for them],” he said. “I think it was just a good opportunity for us to collaborate with them on that. We’re looking at our next steps now.”

DMACC plans to pay $1.5 million to Anawim for its building, and then spend about $500,000 to renovate the space for use by the Davis Center. “We’ve got several requests out for grants and support,” Denson said. In addition to the revenue from the sale of the current Davis Center/grocery building, the net maximum contribution by DMACC should be about $900,000, he said. 

Director DeJear said the expanded facility will enable the Davis Center to offer English as a Second Language classes and information technology training on-site. Currently, clients have to travel to DMACC’s Ankeny or Southridge campuses to access technical training, he said. The center had nearly 11,000 people come through its doors in the past year, and it now serves clients from 20 different Iowa ZIP codes. 

The Davis Center was created through a collaborative community effort with residents of the neighborhood that determined that they wanted both assistance in getting jobs as well as to keep their neighborhood grocery store open. 

Mary Chapman, retired executive dean of the Urban Campus, along with J. Barry Griswell, then head of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, were among key leaders that worked with agencies such as Iowa Workforce Development to get the concept off the ground, Denson said. 

“This has been a great example of the community coming together at all levels to help provide a long-term impact for people in need,” Denson said.