The U.S. Postal Service plans to open its new Westport Post Office in the Playhouse Square shopping center in early 2012.

Until the new storefront opens, the USPS will continue operations in the existing post office at 154 Post Road East, according to USPS spokeswoman Christine Dugas.

Ansley Westport Partners, the limited liability company that owns 154 Post Road East, intends to bring in one or more restaurant or retail tenants in 2012 to succeed the post office at the downtown property, according to Alon Panovka, an Atlanta-based lawyer who represents the investment group.

"We think this is a great location and a fantastic building," Panovka said. "Long-term, we think this will be very good."

Work to improve the appearance of the exterior of the 154 Post Road East building is also set to start in 2012, Panovka added.

After local mail-sorting services moved to a facility in Norwalk, the USPS determined that its current 10,000-square-foot site in the town's center was too large for its retail operations. The Playhouse Square post office encompasses about 2,500 square feet and will accommodate only retail operations. The Derma Clinic European Day Spa formerly occupied the storefront.

Ansley Westport's $2.35 million acquisition of 154 Post Road East followed a months-long wrangle between the town and the USPS over the future of the site. After announcing his opposition to the post office's relocation to Playhouse Square, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff criticized the Postal Service in March for not considering a buyer that was willing to accommodate a smaller postal retail operation at its current location.

A month later, however, Joseloff retracted that assertion and apologized, claiming that a postal official misstated the buyer's plans in a letter to him.

The Postal Service had owned the 154 Post Road East building since 1935, according to Vision Appraisal records. The property has a current appraised value of approximately $3.2 million following the 2010 town revaluation.