It has certainly been a long time coming, but one of the most talked about properties in Forest Park will in fact be redeveloped into a mix of townhouses and condominiums.
The particulars of the project that finally got the green light from the village council on Monday have been debated, changed and changed again over the course of more than year. Twenty-eight town homes and 70 condo units will occupy the corner lot at 7329 Harrison St. This is a far cry from the 200 units once proposed for the site. However, this is not what proponents of an expanded park system had in mind either.
Residents, elected officials and the developer alike ought to be proud of the compromise that has been reached. The priority of saving a building of interest was accomplished, and for this, all of Forest Park should be pleased.
But what exactly has been rescued in this process? To the best of our knowledge (and that of local historian Rich Vitton) the site isn’t listed on any registry of historically significant buildings. Even the community members that balked at the idea of demolishing it haven’t said exactly why this building is worthy of rehabilitation, just that they like it. Nevertheless, we agree with those who believe it was a worthwhile effort to save the Roos.
Now, with the future of this building secured, some effort should be made to pinpoint for ourselves and for future generations what makes this building so remarkable. A little research will be necessary and a fund should be scraped together to install a small monument on the property. This would give passersby some inkling of the purpose this enormous building has served.
From 1953 to 1976 Paul Fisher manufactured pens in the Roos. These weren’t just any pens though. As we reported back in December, Fisher is the inventor of the “Space pen,” that curious little invention that writes upside down. Furthermore, Fisher ran for the White House twice, once in 1960 and again in 1992. He died last year at the age of 93.
Going back a little further of course brings us to the Edward Roos Cedar Chest Company. The 107,000-square foot building was constructed in the 1920s for the Roos family’s business. To this day, people routinely contact the Forest Park Historical Society looking for information on their old cedar chests, Vitton said. A quick Internet search reveals that nationwide, owners of these family heirlooms remain quite interested in learning more about where their cedar chest hails from.
In all likelihood this would be an easy project to raise money for. A few coffee cans around town might be all it takes to collect a few thousand dollars. Meanwhile, those residents who lobbied for rehabilitation can honor the commitment everyone made to preserve the Roos by organizing the historical data and working out the arrangements for placing a small plaque.