Historic downtown Fort Worth post office to relocate

Posted Thursday, Jan. 02, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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The U.S. Postal Service is moving forward with plans to relocate retail services from the historic downtown post office, the first step in the potential sale of the Fort Worth landmark.

Relocation of the services to a new site in the same ZIP code is the first step in the process, said Sam Bolen, spokesman for the Postal Service. A sale of the building could come after the relocation.

“We have to get the building vacant before we can talk about selling it,” Bolen said.

John Roberts, chairman of Historic Fort Worth Inc. and a local architect, said there could be some concern for the safety of the building in the case of a sale, because the post office has the lowest historical designation and protection from the city.

Completed in 1933, the building is designated as delayed demolition, according to the city’s zoning map, which means if the owner of the building applies for a demolition permit, the city can only delay the demolition for 180 days.

“Hopefully, in that time someone could be brought in that could find a way to save the building if possible, but from my experience as chair of Historic Fort Worth, we lose most of them,” Roberts said.

However, Roberts said he is optimistic that the downtown building could serve several new purposes, saying it has potential as new a new city hall or could even serve as private office space.

In addition, he said it would be fairly easy to obtain a greater historical designation for the building.

Judy Borkes, a Fort Worth resident, said though she does not use the post office often, it would be disappointing if it closed.

“It is an amazing building,” Borkes said. “I think it would be a shame if they do move the post office, but I would understand if they need to.”

Residents have until Jan. 30 to protest the decision to relocate the post office.

Potential city hall

The post office building has been considered as a new city hall since 2004, with the city spending $200,000 in 2009 to study the idea and even entering negotiations with the Postal Service.

Price said the city manager’s office has renewed looking at “the numbers,” including analyzing the space the city needs to rent now, since the main City Hall building is too small.

Price, who recalls coming and going from the post office as a child, said the building is valuable to Fort Worth.

“Everyone went in and out of those grand staircases and mailed their packages and letters there,” Price remembered. “It has been around for forever and it is just a beautiful building.”

Still, Price said the numbers “have to work.”

The Tarrant County Appraisal District valued the land at $3.53 million and the building at $2.65 million, for a total of $6.1 million in 2013.

Sandra Rybicki, a real estate specialist for the U.S. Postal Service, briefed the council and citizens on the process for a relocation of retail services on Dec. 3, giving residents 15 days to comment on the possible relocation.

In that meeting, Councilman Jungus Jordan asked Rybicki if the Postal Service would offer a discount to a governmental entity if the building is sold.

Rybicki, however, replied that the building would be competitively bid on the open market if sold.

“For us in Fort Worth who grew up here, that is a pretty historic building,” Jungus told Rybicki.

History of the building

Borkes said converting the building to a city hall could be a solution for keeping it open.

“The thing is, it is so beautiful, inside and out,” Borkes said, looking up at the limestone exterior of the building that was cut from a quarry near Austin.

The post office was designed by local architect Wyatt C. Hedrick, who also designed the neighboring passenger terminal and warehouse as well as the Will Rogers Memorial Center and Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Unlike most post offices across the nation, the architecture of the beaux-arts/classical revival building is very detailed. The lobby has six glass writing tables with bronze lion-head supports. Outside, 16 classical limestone columns face Lancaster, and the cornice features lion’s heads encircling the building.

Murals in the building, by Dwight C. Holmes and former Star-Telegram illustrator William H. Baker, depict the history of the post office from an oxen-drawn mail wagon all the way to air mail.

Trouble at the Postal Service

The historic federal building was listed with 3,700 other post offices being studied for closure more than two years ago because of “excess capacity” and falling revenue at the Postal Service.

The Postal Service ended the 2013 fiscal year with a net loss of $5 billion, which marks seven consecutive years that the agency has posted losses, according to a Nov. 15 news release.

Roland Johnson, a resident of downtown, said he understands the need for the Postal Service to trim excess, since they lose so much money, but he wants another post office to be identified for downtown.

The Postal Service is being threatened by “onerous mandates in existing law and continued First-Class Mail volume declines,” according to the news release. First-class mail, the most profitable product, fell by 2.8 billion pieces from 2012.

A five-year business plan put forth by the Postal Service makes several recommendations for legislative changes, including restructuring the Postal Service employee health plan, adjusting delivery frequency to six-day packages and five-day mail service and changing workers’ pay and benefits.

This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst

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