It’s a stretch, but after years of stagnation we’re happy to see the Historical Society of Forest Park aiming high with its ambitions to take ownership of the old post office building on Des Plaines Avenue.
The U.S. Postal Service recently took the property off the real estate market, having received no suitable offers after nearly 18 months. And the government agency, with profound financial problems of its own, is asking nearly $600,000 for the handsome property. The historical society, meanwhile, acknowledges it has about bupkus in its coffers. So at first blush, this does not seem a match ready to be made.
Consider though that the historical society desperately needs a permanent home, and one adequate to telling the story of Forest Park’s remarkable and rich history. It has wandered nomadically from a room at the library to the basement of its president, and now to donated storage space on Madison Street. Long term, this won’t do.
Also, consider that while the post office, built in 1937, seems not to qualify for official historic preservation status, it remains one of our village’s most recognizable public buildings. Forest Parkers need to decide that this building must be saved, then put to a community-building purpose.
Last year, Mayor Anthony Calderone floated the notion of giving the society a burned-out, but village-owned, two-flat further south on Des Plaines. That idea never made sense to us, but the impulse is correct.
In December, the historical society reached out to Congressman Danny Davis to see if he could use his sway to move the post office to consider creative alternatives. How about taking $300,000? Or swapping the property for the small retail space the post office seeks in Forest Park for relocation purposes?
Consider the possibility of a partnership to make this pipe dream real.
We picture a restaurant taking a majority of the first floor of the post office, leaving 1,000 square feet, plus the full basement for the historical society to spread out. Who owns the building and who is leasing to whom? We’ll leave that to the real estate experts.
What we know is the historical society needs a home, the post office building must be preserved, and it is going to take some moxie to get this done. Let’s make 2012 the year.