USPS real estate specialist Greg Shelton shares options for a new post office following the January closure of the East Union Post Office.
USPS real estate specialist Greg Shelton shares options for a new post office following the January closure of the East Union Post Office.

Central Area residents were unhappy with the options proposed by the U.S. Postal Service on May 2 for a new retail location following the closure of the East Union Post Office. But most agreed they did not want to wait three years to see it return to its old corner at 23rd and Union, which leaves only two viable options at this time.

The East Union Post Office closed on Jan. 12 at Midtown Center, where Lake Union Partners plans to break ground on a seven-story mixed-use development with 430 apartment units spread across three buildings in mid-July. LUP principal Pat Foley told residents during the lengthy design process that the post office would be invited back to fill one of the ground-floor retail spaces.

With a two-year construction period expected for Midtown Commons, plus the buildout after USPS took over the space, a new post office there would take three years to deliver, said USPS real estate specialist Greg Shelton.

The need to relocate the post office due to redevelopment has become a common theme, Shelton tells MPT, playing out in Pioneer Square and Broadway in Capitol Hill, and now in Columbia City and Shoreline.

USPS does not receive government funding, and so it can’t fulfill the community’s request that it create a temporary retail space until the Midtown Commons property comes online at 1150 23rd Ave. Customers would still have to go to the Broadway Post Office to have their needs met if that option were accepted.

Shelton said USPS representatives surveyed potential new sites earlier in the day on May 2, before seeking public feedback at a meeting cosponsored by District 3 Councilmember Kshama Sawant at the Garfield Community Center.

One site south of Seattle Central College was too far away, as was another space in the 1800 block of South Jackson Street.

After scrapping the Midtown option, that left just two locations, one being the Electric Lady Bicycles space on the southwest corner of 23rd and Union. Shelton said USPS is leaning toward a space in the Madrona Refuge building at 34th and Union. Both spaces could be opened within nine months, he said, but the Madrona site has less traffic, is pedestrian-friendly, located along a bus route and would be easier for deliveries than 23rd and Union. Neither site would have dedicated parking, meaning customers would have to find street parking.

“You guys have a challenge with parking here,” Shelton said.

The May 2 meeting kicked off a required 30-day comment period. Those comments can be directed to Shelton until June 2: Greg Shelton, Real Estate Specialist, United States Postal Service, 200 E. Kentucky Ave., Denver, CO, 80209-9950.

LUP is not the first developer to eye the superblock for redevelopment. The developer started the early design guidance process last July, and received final approval from the East and Central Area design review boards in March. Many residents like Jackie DeVincent were upset the postal service had waited so long to plan for the East Union Post Office’s inevitable departure.

“Why do we have to wait another year?” DeVincent said. “This is ridiculous.”

Shelton said USPS received word about the redevelopment in May 2018, followed by an official letter in June. Due to USPS procedure, he said, there was a delay in getting the relocation project assigned.

“By the time they gave it to me, you guys are out a post office,” he said.

Sawant, whose office collected 550 petition signatures calling for the postal service to find a new space, said the East Union Post Office closure creates a service gap from Montlake to Mt. Baker.

“So many of us depend on the post office for connecting with family and friends,” Sawant said.

Seattle Postmaster Trent McNeal said he appreciated the community response, which validates his belief that post offices are vital to communities.

“I’m third-generation post office,” he said. “I love the post office.”

While USPS awaits the conclusion of the comment period, followed by site selection and another 5-6 months to build out a new post office, it will explore interim solutions to help customers.

Attendees at the May 2 meeting were extremely positive about the suggestion of having a drive-through dropbox at the Grocery Outlet on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, which will be explored. USPS will also look at the potential for a dropbox at the Garfield Community Center, which is less likely to be approved.

McNeal also suggested potentially bringing a mobile post office into the Central Area while a fixed site is being developed, but that would also require finding a feasible site.

KeAnna Pickett, who opened The Postman across from the Grocery Outlet with her husband D’Vonne last summer, invited folks to use their business. They don’t charge for dropping off mail, she said, and are open every day but Sunday. The Picketts plan to open two new Central Area locations in the future, one on Jackson Street and the other near Squire Park.