At a meeting Thursday at the Garfield Community Center, a United States Postal Service representative, flanked by Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, laid out two likely Central District options for permanently replacing the former location on 23rd Ave vacated as a major housing and retail development moves in.
“We know that post offices are a vital part of any healthy community,” Sawant said before quickly pivoting to the issue of high rents and displacement. Her staffers were handing out packets on her rent control proposal prior to the meeting.
Sawant’s involvement in pushing for a new post office in her district comes at a time when she faces an election contest amid criticism that she pays more attention to issues outside of District 3 than those inside it. Sawant was the only candidate in the large field to make an appearance at the meeting, but she left early to attend another event.
The location favored by USPS real estate specialist Greg Shelton was 1138 34th Avenue, further to the east of the old post office location. It would not have a parking lot, only street parking, a major topic of concern among the raucous crowd on hand Thursday.
Shelton said he would look into getting street parking spots earmarked for post office patrons. This space is also easier for post office transportation given that it is a less-trafficked area.
The earliest this space could be a permanent post office would be nine months from now, leaving customers with only the post office at 212 Broadway E to provide retail services in the meantime. This is the earliest any location could get permanently up and running, according to Shelton.
The nearest permanent post office is at 409 Maynard Ave S in the Chinatown/International District.
Early in the meeting, one woman inquired why USPS wasn’t setting the groundwork for a new location since the Midtown Center’s arrival has been known for some time.
“Why was there not planning ahead to have a station available?” she asked. “Why do we have to wait another year? This is ridiculous.”
Shelton said that his hands were tied and there wasn’t much he could do.
Another possible location would be The Central building at 2203-2207 E Union St, which was developed by Lake Union Partners, the same firm working on the Midtown: Public Square development getting ready to break ground at the site of the former post office.
The benefit of The Central would be its proximity to the large-scale development incoming in the next couple years that will include hundreds of affordable housing units. However, parking is scarce, much like the 34th Ave possibility.
This location could also be up and running in 9 months, according to Shelton. The crowd was split just about evenly between 2203-2207 E Union St and 1138 34th Ave in an informal poll. The Garfield Community Center where the meeting took place was also floated as a possibility, but it is currently unclear if that is possible.
None of the community members in attendance were interested in the option of moving back into the Midtown Center project in about three years after its finished. They wanted immediate options for mail.
The crowd implored USPS and Seattle Postmaster Trent McNeal to at least provide drive-up boxes for letters and small mail items while the community waits for a more permanent post office. With Seattle’s narrow streets, however, even this could be difficult.
The community members in attendance Thursday evening seemed to be in agreement that the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market on Martin Luther King Jr. Way would be a good option for a drive-up box. Meanwhile, McNeal noted that he could possibly get a walk-up mailbox up in the community in the next week and he would look into bringing a mobile trailer for similar purposes.
Two other locations were knocked down by Shelton, the real estate specialist, as implausible due to how far they were far from the heart of the Central District: 1525 11th Ave and 1801 S Jackson St.
Over the next 30 days, the USPS will be open to written comments from community members. Those comments should be sent to Shelton at:
U.S. Postal Service
Attn: Greg Shelton-East Union
200 E Kentucky Ave
Denver CO 80209-9950
Comments can also be emailed.
UPDATE 5/7/2019: USPS is asking for comments to be sent by snail mail only:
All letters sent to the address in the handout will be considered. I want to make sure that we get all comments. Some of my colleagues have been getting emails and if they don’t forward them to me I will never know, thus the reason for letters. I have attached the handout as well. NO Emails please. With the increased security protocols in email we may have some emails getting stuck in SPAM and I want to make sure all voices are heard. In additional, there are two Greg’s in our system and if you leave off the 2 it will go to him and I may never get the emails. The best and guaranteed thing to do is send by mail. Please have them mail it to me. DO NOT send or email to Ernie.
After the 30 days is up, the final decision will be made on a new post office location, according to Shelton.
In the meantime, KeAnna Pickett, co-owner of the Central District’s The Postman, noted that her business can also provide mail services.
“There are other options right now,” Pickett said, mentioning that her store has temporary parking and could be expanding shortly to two more locations, one on Jackson and another on the west side of 23rd to serve Squire Park customers.
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