Down­town post of­fice closes, pre­pares to move

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Mar­tytoohey mtoohey@states­ ALBERTO MARTÍNEZ / AMER­I­CANS­TATES­MAN Con­tact Marty Toohey at 4453673.

Austin’s down­town post of­fice locked up shop for the last time Thurs­day night at its West Sixth and Guadalupe Street lo­ca­tion.

The of­fice is mov­ing to a smaller spot at 823 Congress Ave. and should be open by Wed­nes­day, Postal Ser­vice spokesman Sam Bolen said. In the in­ter­ven­ing few days there will be no down­town of­fice or post of­fice boxes, though Bolen said the agency is work­ing with down­town busi­nesses and other cus­tomers to en­sure im­por­tant mail gets to the proper place. (Cus­tomers wish­ing to make such an ar­range­ment can call 342-1576.)

The down­town lo­ca­tion serves many of the banks, lawyers and other busi­nesses, as well as a grow­ing down­town pop­u­la­tion. It is be­ing closed pri­mar­ily for real-es­tate con­sid­er­a­tions.

De­vel­op­ers and city of­fi­cials have viewed the of­fice as a waste of prime real es­tate since not long af­ter its 1996 open­ing, prompt­ing then-Mayor Will Wynn to de­clare in 2006 that “the stag­ger­ing un­der­uti­liza­tion of the land is sin­ful.”

At­lanta-based No­vare Group and its Austin part­ners, An­drews Ur­ban and En­deavor Real Es­tate Group, were cho­sen in 2006 from among six of­fers to buy and re­de­velop the post of­fice site. Jamil Alam, En­deavor’s man­ag­ing prin­ci­pal, said the group has “no plans and no sched­ule for the post of­fice block at this time,” though con­dos, of­fice build­ings and re­tail have been men­tioned as pos­si­bil­i­ties.

The Travis Cen­tral Ap­praisal District listed the old post of­fice prop­erty as worth $17.1 mil­lion, though nei­ther the Postal Ser­vice nor the de­vel­op­ers have stated the price for which it sold.

The down­town post of­fice had 33 em­ploy­ees in the re­cent past, but many of them were trans­ferred when the mail car­ri­ers de­liv­er­ing to down­town and some sup­port staff were re­lo­cated to the agency’s 3909 South Congress sta­tion near Ben White Boule­vard. Mail de­liv­ery ser­vices for homes and busi­nesses in down­town’s 78701 ZIP code were also moved to the South Congress lo­ca­tion.

Still, “Our cus­tomers said they want us to main­tain a down­town of­fice, and we de­cided to do the best we could based on that de­sire,” Bolen said. “We’re plan­ning to be in the new lo­ca­tion at least a few years.”

The new down­town lo­ca­tion is smaller than the old one and will have 10 em­ploy­ees. It will is­sue pass­ports, sell stamps and boxes, ship pack­ages and gen­er­ally “have tra­di­tional win­dow ser­vice,” Bolen said.

Mary McEl­hiney waits as her hus­band, Mac, locks their post of­fice box for the last time at the Guadalupe sta­tion. The McEl­hineys have had a box there for at least 10 years.

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