Originally posted February 20, 2014; updated February 15, 2015
By Malcolm Johnstone
West Chester PA — Richard Hancock, a representative of the US Postal Service, made a presentation to the West Chester Council on February 19 to introduce a proposal to sell the existing Post Office at the corner of Gay and Walnut Streets in downtown West Chester and relocate postal services to another downtown location. The downtown Post Office services the 19380 and 19381 ZIP codes.
Immediately after the presentation, members of the West Chester BID, including myself, met with Mr. Hancock to assure him that the BID will provide every assistance to find a suitable new location within the downtown. The West Chester BID has been monitoring this situation since December, 2011, when rumors of selling the Post Office arose. The following activities have taken place to date:
1) It was agreed that the relocation will be as close to the original location as possible. There will be no interruption of postal services during this transition.
2) The acquisition division of the Postal Service will be looking for a space of about 1,600 square feet that provides parking and the ability to load and unload postal trucks. It is possible that the Post Office could rent back its current space from a new owner.
3) On April 25, 2014, after a required appeal period ended, a final determination to relocate the postal retail services in downtown West Chester was made by the Postal Service.
4) There was a review period to consider proposed historic feature convenants that ended June 20, 2014, with an agreement by the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Officer and the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.
5) A comment period ended September 3, 2014, to consider the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s response to the proposed historic covenants on the Post Office plus other items. Consulting parties met September 18. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau for Historic Preservation, has made a recommendation to have the Borough consider a legal commitment for future owners to provide public access to the property.
6) The Postal Service has contracted with a national realty company for listing and selling the property. But posting of the property has not taken place pending the resolution of certain questions regarding Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act which requires federal agencies to provide every protection it can for preservation of historic structures it wishes to divest.
7) On February 9, 2015, Preservation Pennsylvania, the statewide historic preservation nonprofit, announced seven properties it has added to its Pennsylvania At Risk list including the West Chester Post Office. The annual listing of sites are determined to be among the commonwealth’s most endangered historic resources. The announcement said that the “West Chester Post Office is among the most prominent buildings in downtown West Chester, and has served as an informal community meeting place and provided a federal presence in the community for nearly 100 years. In an effort to cut costs, the United States Postal Service (USPS) closed the West Chester Post Office and plans to sell it. The USPS is willing to include preservation covenants in their sales agreement to ensure the building’s preservation. Thus, the problem is not a direct threat to the post office, but rather indirect impacts to the surrounding downtown, including the loss of a facility that generates foot traffic downtown, and reduced opportunities for informal contact among community members. This situation is not unique to West Chester, but is being repeated across the nation. The West Chester Post Office is listed in Pennsylvania At Risk as an example of this important national issue in Pennsylvania.”
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