We’ve reported, more than once, that the biggest challenge facing the newly reformed Historical Society of Forest Park is securing a permanent home.
The society managed to find a temporary spot on Madison Street, compliments of local business person Art Sundry, but it needs somewhere to permanently house its collection.
Recently, there has been chatter about 512 Desplaines Ave. being that place. That’s right, the “burned-out, abandoned building,” as Village Administrator Tim Gillian affectionately referred to it, that sits across the street from village hall.
Following some savvy negotiating after an arson fire that gutted much of the building last year, the village managed to get the property from a bank for a mere $8,000 – a steal.
That being said, it’s within the village’s interest to hang onto that property, or as Mayor Anthony Calderone recently said “walk slowly” in deciding what to do.
We agree, which is why we think that fixing this place up for the historical society – something Calderone has suggested more than once – is not at all practical. To be fair, the mayor did recently say that, presently, this is “wishful thinking”; but, nonetheless, it’s something the village hasn’t ruled out, yet.
The building has been exposed to the elements for over a year, and it’s about to face another winter with a mammoth hole in its roof. We’re told that it’s structurally sound, but for how long?
Repair estimates (a.k.a. sums Calderone has given us off the top of his head over the last year, since, like he said, the village does not have firm figures) run the gamut: $100,000-$400,000.
That’s money that neither the village nor the historical society has. Gillian said that much about the village’s finances at last week’s council meeting.
Why then, are officials even entertaining this idea?
One suggestion is to rent the upstairs out, and have either the village or the historical society collect rent. But as Calderone said, and, frankly, we agree with him, the village has no business playing landlord.
But, again, where’s the money for the repairs going to come from? None of the suggestions we’ve received, thus far, seem realistic.
The folks who put the historical society back together deserve a lot of credit for putting aside whatever differences might have prevented the organization’s revival in the past. And, just like anybody else who’s interested in the town’s history, we, too, are anxious to see the group land a place to hang its hat.
We just can’t get behind something as impractical as this.
The village absolutely needs to hang onto this property, no doubt about it. We agree with Calderone, in that hasty decisions need not be made; however, at some point, some meaningful planning needs to be done. That could be, as has been suggested, an expansion to the village’s campus, a parking lot, or maybe even, eventually, a development of some sort.
Right now, though, the village should not be leading the folks at the historical society to believe that housing the group in this dilapidated building is something that can actually be done.
Those folks deserve better than that.