Lombard Park District set to approve purchase of Helen Plum library land

Patrons gathered last week to bid farewell to the former Helen M. Plum Memorial Library in Lombard. A new library is opening next month off Main Street. (John Starks | Staff Photographer, June 2020)

Lombard Park District commissioners are close to sealing a deal for the purchase of the former Helen Plum library site near downtown.

On Tuesday night, the park board will vote to approve a contract to buy the library property along Maple Street. The agreement paves the way for the demolition of the aging library building and the expansion of Lilacia Park.

Under the terms of the contract, the park district would contribute $350,000 toward demolishing the structure as full payment for acquiring the main library property, a 34,881-square-foot lot.

The park district also has agreed to pay $168,000 for the purchase of three lots totaling 17,794 square feet immediately west of the shuttered library.

Now on the same page with their park district counterparts, Helen Plum trustees have already approved the purchase and sales agreement as they prepare to open a new library off Main Street next month.

The library will be responsible for tearing down the old Maple Street building. The contract also calls for the library to have the demolition work complete on or before April 1, 2024. The park district is expected to close on the property purchase within a month after the building’s demolition.

Park district officials have not yet finalized plans for the use of the property, but they have said they will ultimately be able to expand Lilacia Park and protect the open space that Colonel William R. Plum, a Civil War veteran, bequeathed to the community almost a century ago.

Upon his death in 1927, Plum gifted his lilac collection to Lombard, ensuring it would be known thereafter as the “Lilac Village.” He also stipulated that his home be converted into a free public library as a memorial to his wife.

In October 1963, a new, two-story library building opened, and the Plum residence was demolished.

The project to replace the 1960s-era building was one for the books.

Voters back in November 2016 approved a property tax increase for the library. Helen Plum trustees originally planned to replace the library on the same site next to Lilacia Park, but officials struggled to create a proposal that could pass muster with park district commissioners.

Their opposition stemmed from concerns that a taller building would diminish the beauty of Lilacia Park and deprive the horticultural display of sunlight. The park district already owns “air rights” above part of the library property.

The library eventually decided to tear down the shuttered Mr. Z’s supermarket to make way for the new 50,000-square-foot building at 411 South Main St.

The village, meanwhile, plans to acquire the library-owned parking lot at 25 W. Maple St. The village board is set to discuss that contractual agreement with the library on April 6.