It was May 19, 2009, and the Fort Worth City Council had just unanimously approved a $200,000 study of leasing the historic downtown post office on Lancaster Avenue to serve as the new City Hall.
Mayor Mike Moncrief was enthusiastic, as anyone who has admired the 1933 beaux-arts/classical revival structure, with its 16 classical limestone columns facing Lancaster, designed by prominent local architect Wyatt C. Hedrick, might be.
Still, Moncrief also had words of caution.
“The numbers have got to work,” he said. “It’s not good enough to just wish for something; you’ve got to make it work.”
Fast forward to the present day, and the U.S. Postal Service wants to move out of the iconic building. For years, most of the building, ornate as it is both inside and out, has been more than the service needs or wants.
Moncrief’s replacement, Mayor Betsy Price, says the same thing he did, almost with the same words.
“I think there is some interest, certainly that is a very historic building and we want it to be put to good use and promote development along Lancaster,” Price told Star-Telegram reporter Caty Hirst.
But, she added, the “numbers have to be feasible.”
Officially, the 2009 negotiations over city use of the building never ended. But if they had gone well, the timetable in a city staff memorandum outlining the council-approved study shows City Hall would have moved this year.
The logical assumption, then, is that the numbers haven’t been feasible — meaning that the postal service or the developers it hired to work on the deal were asking more than the city was willing or able to pay.
It’s clear from other city studies that municipal offices need more room.
They’re scattered in several leased spaces other than the main City Hall building at 1000 Throckmorton St.
But those same studies have shown that the Lancaster Avenue post office, majestic as it is, isn’t big enough to serve all those needs.
The emotional tug to move City Hall to the old post office is very strong. Maybe this time the numbers will work.
As the two mayors have said, that’s a prerequisite.