The U.S. Postal Service is still searching for a new retail location in downtown Princeton and is preparing for the possible sale of the Palmer Square Post Office, a postal official said.
The Palmer Square property has not been put on the market and contrary to rumor, postal officials say a buyer has not been chosen yet.
“We are still in the planning phase,” said Richard Hancock, a real estate specialist with the U.S. Postal Service’s Eastern Facilities Service Office in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“You have a wonderful building on Palmer Square,” Hancock told the Borough Council Tuesday night. “There is interest in the private sector and we are looking at selling that asset and turning it back into a private property. Our asset management department is looking at putting it on the market and figuring out what we can get for it…We do need a retail operation in Princeton and we are looking to find a new location that offers 2,000 square feet of space.”
“Where do you see in your town as an ideal location for a brand new postal facility with improved parking, improved access, and up-to-date facilities?” he said. “Where would that be?”
Hancock said the sale and the timeline all depend on whether the Postal Service is able to sell the building and find a suitable new location. He said the timing is uncertain and officials could hear from him again in 30 days or in six months.
“Everything is a process,” he said. “This is the beginning of the process. These things tend to take on a life of their own.”
Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller asked if it was possible for the Postal Service to remain in its existing location and rent out the unused space there. Hancock said the decision would be based on both economics and operational efficiencies.
“Our planning department crunches the numbers, looking at the expense of owning versus leasing,” Hancock said. “If someone were to offer us a lot of money and lease us back part of the building for almost nothing, of course we are going to listen to that…how to divide it and maintain the viability of that building is always a question. We need to get people in and out of the building. But we will entertain ideas.”
Councilman David Goldfarb wanted to know whether the new post office would have the same number of P.O. boxes for residents and businesses. The post office would look at the existing number, and make some projections based on trends. Goldfarb expressed concerns that residents without cars must go to the main post office in West Windsor to do some business, like picking up certified letters. But Hancock said residents can ask that such items be sent from the West Windsor post office to the downtown Princeton retail operation.
Councilman Roger Martindell asked whether the mural would remain in the Palmer Square building. Hancock said the state’s Historic Preservation Commission would make a recommendation on that issue.
Given the two Princetons are consolidating and most functions are moving to the township municipal building on Witherspoon Street, Martindell suggested perhaps the Postal Service could rent space at Borough Hall, which would be a central location.
“Everything is possible,” Hancock said. “What I would look at is the timing of the sale of our building. If we do put it on the market, it will go on the market in early 2012, the first quarter. Depending on the interest, we will then be willing and ready to relocate. We are looking for a small location, one where it would be easy to relocate, with good access and a good delivery area. How would this building work? What part would be cut off and used?”
Hancock said a 2,000-square-foot storefront with good access and parking would be ideal if anyone knows of one. “Once we are in a location we tend to stay there for a while,” he said.
The U.S. Postal Service, on the brink of bankruptcy, is reorganizing. It is consolidating some operations, closing some facilities and selling properties.
“Due to the economic climate we are looking at every aspect of our operations,” Hancock said. “But we are also looking at facilities — brick and mortar. We are looking at every single facility in the United States.”