The same day a city board voted to make a $7 million offer to buy the historic downtown post office, the U.S. Postal Service announced the building is not for sale after all.
“After further review, the Postal Service has decided to retain the Fort Worth, TX — Downtown Station for Postal operations,” Arlene A. Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the postal service, said in a statement released Tuesday. “The retail operation will not be impacted. Relocation of this operation will not be required. At this time the property will not be marketed for sale.”
The Lancaster Tax Increment Reinvestment Board voted unanimously a few hours earlier to make an offer to buy the downtown post office. The purchase was contingent upon approval by the Fort Worth City Council and other taxing entities — the Tarrant County Hospital District, Tarrant County College District and the Tarrant Regional Water District.
Councilman Jungus Jordan, who also serves as chairman of the tax increment board set up by the city, said board members had “no clue” the Postal Service had decided not to sell.
“Quite frankly, we are pleased. Our concern was that the building would go unoccupied and fall into deterioration,” Jordan said about the Postal Service’s decision not to sell.
“We were going under good faith that we were going to make our offer, so we are pleased as punch we won’t have to secure the building, but it will be secured and used for a good public use,” Jordan said.
In the effort to buy the building, the city was trying to ensure that “at the end of the day that is going to be a quality development,” said Jesus Chapa, the director of the housing and economic development department. “The best way we know how is by getting control of the property.”
The postal service initially announced plans to relocate the post office in January because of costs. The historic federal building was listed with 3,700 other post offices being studied for closure several years ago because of “excess capacity” and the falling revenue of the Postal Service.
Sanchez has not responded to questions about why and when the Postal Service decided not to sell.
In a letter dated Monday to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price from Tom A. Samra, vice president of facilities for the Postal Service, Samra said, “After further review, based on our supplemental analysis of the business and other factors, the Postal Service has changed its strategy for the Downtown Station and will now retain the facility for Postal Service operations, including customer retail services.”
The Tarrant Appraisal District valued the land in 2013 at $3.53 million and the building at $2.65 million, for a total of $6.1 million.
Along with the original plan to buy the building, Chapa said the Fort Worth Local Development Corporation, which is spearheading the city’s development of Pinnacle Bank Place across the street, could have offered incentives to the Postal Services to move retail services to that location.
The post office, completed in 1933, 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.
The building, located at 251 W. Lancaster Ave., had been considered as a possible 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.
Unlike most post offices across the nation, the architecture of the beaux-arts/classical revival building is quite detailed. The lobby has six glass writing tables with bronze lion-head supports. Outside, 16 classical limestone columns face Lancaster, and the cornice features lions’ 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 ox-drawn mail wagon all the way to air mail.