With less mail flowing through its doors, Forest Park’s only post office is on the market and looking for a smaller space.
A U.S. Postal Service representative said the federal agency will still maintain a retail presence somewhere in Forest Park, but as part of a cost-trimming move, the roughly 17,000 square-foot property at 417 Desplaines Ave. is listed for sale at $590,000.
“We’ve been looking at the different facilities we have and seeing how we can consolidate,” said Sean Hargadon, a USPS spokesman for the Northern Illinois District, headquartered in Carol Stream. “Since we don’t have that kind of mail volume, we don’t need as much space.”
Nineteen mail carriers have already been transferred to a post office in Oak Park at 1116 Garfield St., but no jobs will be lost as a result of the downsizing.
“We’re constantly looking at our facilities to see how to make them more efficient…especially in today’s economy,” said Hargadon, who also noted that nearby post offices in Geneva, Lake Forest and Lake Zurich are also on the market.
Right now, the post office remains open during regular hours. Mail service should not be affected during the transition either, though some residents may be confused by the “for sale” sign posted on the front lawn.
“It isn’t closing, no,” Hargadon said. “There will be a Forest Park post office.”
At its future location, people will still be able to buy stamps, ship packages and rent P.O. boxes with the same customer service as before, according to Hargadon.
Others are concerned, however, about what could happen to the 8,000 square-foot building itself, which is eligible for landmark status since it is more than 50 years old and contains a level of historical and architectural significance, according to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The post office dates back to 1937 and features a very simple design made of red brick and gray, granite stone.
“It’s sad that they are thinking about selling the post office,” said Rich Vitton, a sitting commissioner of the village’s Historic Preservation Commission and also the president of the Historical Society of Forest Park. “Somebody can come along and build some ridiculous storefront.”
Any renovations done on the building, however, would have to get approved by the state’s preservation agency.
These guidelines would “allow for modern day, new use for the business while preserving the features, interior and exterior, that give it its character,” said Anne Haaker, a deputy state historic preservation officer.
The post office also currently houses a giant mural made by Miriam McKinnie in 1940 called “The White Fawn,” which depicts a small paddle boat with the same name that used to take sightseers in the late 1800s up and down the Des Plaines River to a popular spot for picnics. The mural had been lost for many years until a postal worker found it wrapped up in the back of the building.
USPS said that the mural, which took years to restore, will remain in tact, if not at the new post office, then somewhere else in the village.
“It’s for the community, that’s why those things were commissioned,” Hargadon said. “We are very mindful of that and that’s why it’s going to stay in the town.”