Future of downtown Fort Worth post office uncertain


A. Lee Graham lgraham@bizpress.net Socked with declining revenue and facilities it no longer needs, the U.S. Postal Service is considering pulling out of its federal building location on Lancaster Avenue. What would take its place is unknown, but the city of Fort Worth has discussed purchasing the building as its next City Hall for several years.

Whatever occurs — and even if it vacates the historic structure — postal representatives vow to retain a downtown presence. “It is our desire to always retain a presence in the downtown area,” said Sandi Rybicki, a real estate specialist for the U.S. Postal Service. Commenting on the possible move at the Dec. 3 City Council meeting, Rybicki emphasized public notification as the federal service pursues possible relocation. That possibility reflects an agency rocked by technological challenges; namely, online commerce and reduced paper mail volume. Since 2006, the agency has pared its workforce by 190,000 employees through attrition, with the ultimate goal of reducing the workforce to 400,000.

Meanwhile, Rybicki said the agency has reduced its cost base by $15 billion, consolidated more than 200 mail-processing facilities and dropped about 21,000 delivery routes. The agency was rocked by a $5 billion net loss in fiscal 2013, according to a Nov. 15 news release. It’s just the latest in a string of consecutive annual losses in recent years. Since 2009, postal facilities have been trimmed by 14 million square feet as the agency continues downsizing its physical footprint. Moving its federal building operation would be another step in that effort, though no potential future location or locations have been publicly discussed.

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“Studies have been completed on the Fort Worth downtown station,” Rybicki said. “These studies have proven that we have a very valuable asset that can be better utilized.” According to Tarrant County Appraisal District information, the property is valued at $3.53 million, with the building at $2.65 million. “As part of a national effort, the post office is evaluating our current inventory in an effort to optimize the network,” said Rybicki. Though Rybicki did not specify a date at which a relocation decision would be made, she outlined the path to that action. A public meeting will be scheduled, followed by a 15-day period allowing residents to comment. Following that would be an initial relocation decision, with notification sent to city officials and a 30-day comment period. Meanwhile, the postal service would evaluate the local real-estate market for potential sites. District 6 Councilman Jungus Jordan asked whether a governmental entity could purchase the property within that time. “It will be competitively bid so it will be bid on the open market,” Rybicki said. District 5 Councilwoman Gyna Bivens suggested online public notification, as well as posting fliers at area post office locations. “That’s a good point,” Rybicki. Mayor Betsy Price said no decision has been made whether the city will purchase the building. “We’ll begin to discuss what the city’s interest might be,” Price said.