Town spurned on post office move; Playhouse Square merchants pleased
The U.S. Postal Service has overruled the town's opposition to relocating the Westport Post Office from its current location at 154 Post Road East to a new storefront in the Playhouse Square Shopping Center.
In a March 23 letter to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, USPS real estate specialist Joseph Mulvey confirmed the postal agency's plan to move to a smaller site in the shopping center, which was announced by the Postal Service last month.
"The purchaser of the (154 Post Road East) property has plans for the property which do not include space for the Postal Service within the building," he wrote. The Playhouse Square property, he added, "offers on-site parking, something that is not available at the present location."
Mirroring his response to the initial announcement of the relocation, Joseloff expressed disappointment Thursday over the rejection of his appeal.
"The U.S. Postal Service has done a disservice to the town and its residents by selecting a buyer for the present building who is unwilling to accommodate a smaller postal retail operation in its plans," he said in a press release.
Postal Service officials, however, maintain that Playhouse Square is the best location for Westport's post office.
"We believe this is the best choice for the postal service and will be a vibrant addition to our continued presence in Westport," Postal Service Public Affairs Specialist Maureen Marion told the Westport News on Friday.
Several Playhouse Square merchants also expressed support for the post office's new location.
"I'm hoping it helps business," said Organic Market manager Richelle Luedee. "A lot of people who would never think of coming to the square will now come because of the post office."
Luedee added that she would prefer the post office to locate its entrance on the side of the building facing the Westport Country Playhouse to effectively manage parking turnover in the commercial complex.
"I think it's great," said Bodytalk women's clothing store manager Heidi Langan. "It'll bring in more people. Change is good."
Management at the Massage Envy Spa, one of the establishments that will share the northern end of the shopping center with the post office, also backed the move.
"I'm very happy," said the spa's owner, Kamal Ahuja. "With all the people who will see us going in and out of the post office, it will be a good advertisement for our business."
The Playhouse Square location was one of three alternate sites considered by the Postal Service after a for-sale sign went up in front of the main Post Road East branch about a year ago. The Postal Service also considered remaining in a smaller space in its existing building or moving to a site at 645 Post Road East, a shopping center that includes the Fresh Market grocery store.
After local mail sorting moved to a facility in Norwalk, the Postal Service determined that its current 10,000-square-foot building downtown is too large for its retail operations. The new Playhouse Square facility, which formerly housed the Derma Clinic European Day Spa, encompasses about 2,500 square feet.
The Postal Service's current location, meanwhile, will likely be sold to a new buyer within the next 30 days, according to Skip Lane of the Cushman and Wakefield commercial realty firm, which is brokering the deal. Once the sale is final, Lane said the buyer will probably seek retail and restaurant tenants to replace the post office.
The Postal Service has owned the 154 Post Road East building since 1935, according to Vision Appraisal records. The building has a current appraised value of approximately $3.2 million following the 2010 town revaluation.