U.S. Postal Service to Sell Washington Street Building, Relocate within Union Square

U.S. Postal Service to Sell Washington Street Building, Relocate within Union Square

patchThe post office is looking to sell their Washington St. building to the City and relocate customer services to a much smaller space in Union Square

Officials from the U.S. Postal Service held a public meeting on Thursday to discuss the sale and possible relocation of its Union Square branch, located at 237 Washington Street.

The Post Office is looking to sell the building, transfer distribution operations to Chelsea, and reopen a smaller retail space of approximately 2,000 square feet in the Union Square neighborhood, according to Postal Service officials.

Maintaining a retail space onsite, where customers could mail parcels and letters, as well as purchase stamps and other mailing supplies has not been ruled out.

Building valued at $2.7 million, City is potential buyer

Jim Hickey, a real estate specialist with the Postal Service’s New England Facilities Service Office in Connecticut said an appraisal done a year and a half ago placed the value of the building around $2.7 million.

According to City Spokesperson Michael Meehan, the City of Somerville is a potential buyer.

“We’re interested in that area in general and are putting a lot of our resources into it to facilitate the redevelopment,” Meehan said. “It’s no secret we’ve had interest in the Post Office. It’s just a matter of…the details.”

The two-story building occupies more than 15,000 square feet and features a rear service parking lot with loading dock space for five trucks and at least three cars, said Richard “Pops” Sullivan, an American Postal Workers Union Steward who works at the Union Square branch.

A historic 1938 building

Built in 1938, the depression-era building is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and its lobby contains an original Works Progress Administration (WPA) mural painted during the Great Depression.

The mural is part of the Post Office’s “New Deal Art Collection” and depicts an action of the revolutionaries against the British, most likely at Prospect Hill, said William Moncrief a historic preservationist and real estate specialist for the Postal Service.

Any owner who purchases the property would have to preserve the mural, could not make changes to the façade and would have to abide by the regulations of the Massachusetts Historical Commission he explained.

For the Postal Service, the sale of the property comes as way to downsize postal operations and to cut costs as a decline in mail volumes has led to a reduction in revenue.

Number of letters sent by U.S. mail down 20 percent in four years

According to Hickey, due to the recession and an increased reliance on e-mail, the number of letters handled by the Postal Service dropped nearly 20 percent between 2006 and 2010, from approximately 225 billion pieces of mail, to 175 billion.

Hickey explained the site was chosen following a study done by the U.S. Postal Service Planning Department to find facilities where savings can be generated.

“What emanated out of this study,” Hickey said. “Is that we have an opportunity to essentially realign, downsize and consolidate with the expectation that we can generate revenue.” 

New uses for the building

Meehan said one possible use for the building might involve the arts and that preliminary talks are under way with an area organization. 

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