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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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MULTICULTURAL FAMILY CENTER. On July 9, 2005, a grassroots organization met in a storefront at 1340 White Street. Eventually, a strategic decision was made to align more closely with the City of Dubuque. As part of the formation of this public/private partnership, the organization moved to a city-owned space at 1157 Central Avenue on September 15, 2009. This building which includes a kitchen, breakfast bar, fireplace, family room, multi-purpose classroom, computer lab, language-learning lab, conference room and offices, received the 365 Impact Award for “Best Social Space” in March of 2014. (1) Opened on September 15, 2009, the Center at 1157 Central Avenue was only a few blocks from its former home at 1340 White Street.

The Center operated as a partnership between the City of Dubuque and the nonprofit Multicultural Family Center Board of Directors with several partnerships including the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT and Northeast Iowa Community College. The Dubuque Community School District purchased the former Kephart Music building and a parking lot at PRESCOTT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL for $349,000. In 2008 the city purchased the building which became the home of the Center from the school district for $189,000. The first-floor renovation of the building for the Center cost more than $400,000. A second floor renovation into office space was estimated to cost $300,000.

In 2009 the building offered three large rooms for programming and a room set aside for private events. Open to families of all backgrounds, the Center was also planned to provide activities for middle and high school students.

From 2010 to 2016 the Center had three directors and three acting directors. The newest director was Farris Muhammad, a native of Detroit. Muhammad had owned and operated Reciprocal Tutoring Service which provided academic support to underprivileged children in the greater Detroit area. He held a Ph.D. in educational administration and policy from the University of Georgia in Athens. His research focused on the resilience of inner-city black youth, analyzing the effects of poverty, urban schooling and environmental factors on the educational development of black males. (2)

On October 20, 2016 the building in which the Center was located was renamed the Ruby SUTTON Building in honor of the local civil rights activist. (3)

City officials announced in October, 2019 that during the winter, work would begin on the expansion and renovation of the Center. The city in 2016 had purchased the adjoining building, but construction was delayed as money was shifted to the construction of the Intermodal Transportation Center and the Jule Operations Center. The $1.4 million project would link the Center with the former home of the COLTS DRUM AND BUGLE CORPS into one facility of 10,000 square-feet of space. The building had been purchased by city officials in 2016 for $443,000The completed facility would offer a large meeting room for an estimated 200 people, kitchen, meeting rooms, reception area, expanded computer space and extended hours. The multi-cultural center would also house a reception area for the city's Leisure Services Department which would be relocated from BUNKER HILL GOLF COURSE. (4)

In January, 2022 the announcement was made that the Multicultural Center had completed the $1.55 million, 10,000-square foot development project. building. The majority of the expansion was involved with a large main lobby, a new kitchen, and multiple sectioned-off classrooms and meeting rooms. The ever-growing number of programs offered at the Center had previously limited providing new programs. Fully utilizing the new space immediately was on-hold due to the PANDEMIC. (5)





1. "History," Multicultural Family Center. Online: https://www.mfcdbq.org/about-us/history

2. Barton, Thomas J. " Detroit Native to Head Multicultural Family Center," Telegraph Herald, January 27, 2016, p. 3A

3. "Chronology," Telegraph Herald, January 1, 2017, p. 78

4. Barton, Thomas J. "Multi-Cultural Family Center to Expand," Telegraph Herald, October 23, 2019, p. 1A

5. Kruse, John, "Officials See Bright Future with Expansion of Multicultural Center," Telegraph Herald, January 4, 2020, p. 2A