and White Flint, take note: Downtown Washington's grand Old Post Office Building came back to life yesterday, elegant, brilliant and charged with energy. It works. It attracts. It belongs. It fuses old splendor and upbeat activity. What it is not, we hasten to interject, is just another artsy-craftsy merchandise mart. It is, as Post critic Benjamin Forgey has written, a most impressive triumph of preservation and potential.

Milling as best we could with yesterday's opening-day waves of shoppers, gawkers and lunchtimers, the memories of how close the wrecking ball once came to killing this building seemed all the more chilling. Thanks to a few good people with patience and imagination--architects, local residents, critics, sympathetic members of Congress and even some creative bureaucrats--the building lives as never before. Its dramatic clock tower and spacious, tiered courtyard is anything but petrified or forbidding.

There are shops of all kinds. Eateries cater to the gourmet, the brown-bagger or the carryout chicken- and-ribs crowd. Performers cavort daily on stage. There are places to sit down, look down, look up, browse or get out quickly. Upstairs, there are offices along walkways around the courtyard, going 12 stories high to the skylight.

After all the talk about how to revive this central area along Washington's most celebrated avenue, this is a solid contribution. It will be helped, we can only hope, by what's still to come, or to come back, up and down the street: there is the Willard Hotel; the National Theatre; a new Rouse Shopping Mall and ventures planned by Sears, General Electric and various law firms. For a city that has seen so many plans gather dust or self-destruct, these signs of visible life are good news.