Flossmoor History Project ramps up marketing effort based on village's architectural treasures

 
To create the future, study the past.

The Flossmoor History Project, billed by organizers as a forward-leaning marketing project, seems to be following that timeless bit of advice, creating a new marketing effort rooted firmly in the village's past, especially its rich architectural history.

Organizers Scott Ford and Myron Graham, members of the village Community Relations Commission, held a meeting Thursday, April 5, to gauge community interest in the project and invite residents to get involved.

Scott Mehaffey, a Flossmoor landscape architect and historic preservation professor, provided an overview of Flossmoor's civic and residential structures from the end of the 19th century to the 1970s. 

Many of Flossmoor's gems were designed by significant architects of their time, including one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and homes by less famous but highly influential architects.

"We've got a lot of great pedigree here," Mehaffey said.

That architectural pedigree is a marketing asset, according to Ford. He said a study by the National Historic Trust found that people in the millennial generation have high regard for historic preservation and prefer living and dining in communities with historic character.

That group is the primary audience envisioned for the project, he said.

"We feel a big part of Flossmoor's identity is our historic downtown and historic residential architecture," he said. "Right downtown we have the original lifestyle center that all these other towns are trying to engineer. We have residential and retail combined right next to our Metra station. Our residential architecture is some of the best in the Chicagoland area."

The first challenge for the project is creating a repository for history and architecture information. Ford said a number of resources can help piece together Flossmoor's story, but those pieces are scattered in various places and require a lot of work to assemble. He and Graham envision a central repository.

"We feel that without this modern centralized repository on an accessible platform to generate interest in Flossmoor's historic housing and downtown, we're losing an entire generation of home buyers," he said.

Creating that repository will require members of the community to pitch in, so one purpose of the meeting was to invite more participation. The project's most immediate needs are for people with marketing, internet technology and archiving experience.

A number of people did step up following the meeting, including Dick Condon, a long-time Flossmoor resident who grew up living in the Civic Center. Condon is in charge of maintaining the inventory of items held by the Homewood Historicial Society, so he will bring archiving experience to the Flossmoor project.

Another volunteer, Jamie O'Shea, said he had not paid close attention to local history until he saw blueprints for his century-old Flossmoor home. That piqued his interest, and when he heard about the project, he decided to get involved.

About 40 people attended the meeting, and Graham said the response was "absolutely phenomenal." 

"I hope (the project) encourages all of us to find new ways to get involved with the village," he said. "It's about Flossmoor's future and how we can market our wonderful community."

He noted that volunteer help and future fundraising efforts would move the project forward in a way that would not burden the village's budget.

Ford and Graham approached the village several months ago to seek support for the project. They received encouragement but not funding, they said.

“The village board and I were pleased to hear about Mr. Ford’s and Mr. Graham’s presentation about a marketing idea to promote and publicize one of Flossmoor’s strongest assets which are the unique and architecturally significant homes in the community," Mayor Paul Braun said in an email message to the Chronicle. "The village board was not able at that time to commit village staff time and financial resources until there was more specific information as to what resources the project would require.

"This project would fit in nicely with the village’s strategic plan to promote and market Flossmoor’s terrific strengths and assets so as to continue to attract new residents and businesses to the community," Braun said. "The village board and I look forward to hearing more about this project in the future.”
 
Residents who want to contributed to the effort can sign up by visiting the project website.

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