However, postal officials said Thursday the USPS will not be “aggressively” pursuing that course of action until the existing facility is sold.
USPS officials held a public meeting Thursday afternoon at the downtown post office to inform people of the anticipated relocation of the downtown facility. About 40 people attended the 30-minute session.
The USPS has been looking to sell the 62,000-square-foot downtown post office for months, officially putting it on the market in April and establishing a $1.3 million asking price in May. The move is being done in connection to an overarching downsizing and consolidation strategy by the Postal Service to help save money and stave off bankruptcy.
Dennis Perry, a real estate specialist with the USPS, said the Postal Service is facing serious financial challenges at this time, with the main cause of the problem being the double-digit drop in first class mail in recent years.
“This building is about 12 times the size that we require for the operations that exist here,” Perry said. “The retail space in here now, on paper, requires around 4,000 square feet of space.”
Which is exactly what the USPS is looking to replace the downtown facility with, Perry said — a 4,000-square-foot retail facility, located in an existing downtown building, as close to the downtown post office as possible.
Perry said the new facility will offer all of the services of the existing facility, along with the P.O. boxes. Perry added the P.O. box numbers would not be affected by any relocation.
Patrick Campbell, the senior manager of post office operations, said there is a 99 percent chance the USPS would lease the new retail space rather than purchase or build a new facility. The USPS is also open to selling the existing downtown post office and leasing the retail space and post office boxes within the building from the new owner.
However, Perry said there is no deal in place at this time, and the project, which has funding in place, will not move quickly until the existing building is sold.
“We’re not in a position to have two buildings at the same time,” Perry said. “We will not aggressively pursue a replacement ... and the time frame is almost purely driven by how fast this building sells.”
Kingsport officials have expressed an interest in the facility as a possible expansion site for higher education purposes, tying in with the nearby five-building-strong Academic Village. City officials and members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen have toured the building at least four times within the past year, including one tour with Northeast State Community College officials.
Two months ago, City Manager John Campbell made a $300,000 offer on the building on behalf of the city, saying the $1.3 million asking price was “way out of line” and adding that the cost to renovate the building into usable space for higher education purposes would be in the $3.5 million to $4 million range.
The USPS rejected the offer, saying the $1.3 million asking price is well within market norms.
Perry said there are no serious prospective buyers at this time.
Following Thursday’s meeting, Perry noted there is a 30-day comment period from the public during which the USPS cannot do anything with the downtown facility. Comments, questions and suggestions can be sent to Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org or (336) 665-2863.