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Written by Francisco Alvarado, BT Contributor   
May 2018

Buena Vista Post Office move remains a mystery

OPostOffice_1n the façade of the Buena Vista Post Office, right above the glass doors and large windows, a sign proclaims in block letters “retail space available” next to an image of a new modern building.

The banner is the only indicator that the longtime mail pickup and drop-off center won’t be around much longer. But the exact date when the post office at 66 NE 39th St. will close forever, as well as a possible nearby relocation site, remains a mystery.

The uncertainty has left many residents and workers in Buena Vista, Midtown Miami, Morningside, and Edgewater who use the post office wondering if the U.S. Postal Service will soon force them to trek to postal locations in downtown Miami, Allapattah, or the Little River neighborhood.

“I hope they put one that is really close,” says Danielle Lee, chairwoman of Buena Vista Stakeholders homeowners group. “NW 2nd Avenue could use a good investment like a new post office. That’s what I wish would happen. I definitely don’t want to drive far, and for a long time, while they figure it out.”

On a recent Thursday outside the post office shortly after noon, eight out of ten customers who went inside told the BT that they didn’t know it was closing.

Raphaelle Kernisant says she’s been going to the post office to pick up packages she orders online from sites like Amazon since she began working a year ago as an account associate for Diamond Public Relations at 4770 Biscayne Blvd. “I’m always using this post office,” says 23-year-old Kernisant. “It’s more convenient for me to come here because I spend most of my time at work. Now the convenience is gone.”

Updates from the U.S. Postal Service have been few and far between. In July 2016, about a year and a half after the National Association of Letter Carriers sold the post office property to Thor Equities for $43.2 million, the Postal Service held a public meeting to address community concerns about the relocation of retail and delivery operations, says USPS spokeswoman Debra Fetterly.

PostOffice_2

Thor had given the postal service a deadline of January 31, 2017, to vacate the premises, but the company granted an extension because the Postal Service has not had any luck finding a new home -- ideally, a 13,750-square-foot space on a site that’s at least two acres and can accommodate 123 parking spaces -- in or near the Design District.

Fetterly says she doesn’t know how far the lease has been extended because she hasn’t been able to reach USPS real estate specialist Sandra A. Rybicki, who’s in charge of the search for a new Buena Vista location. Thor representatives did not return phone messages seeking comment.

Tony Arellano, a principal with Dwntwn Realty Advisors, says the problem is that sites in and near the Design District that can accommodate both retail and delivery operations are too expensive for the Postal Service. “I submitted 20 sites to them,” Arellano says. “It’s difficult to get a huge swath of land that can park 50 employee vehicles and be able to take 18 wheelers, plus have a retail presence with parking for customers at a reasonable rent the Postal Service will consider market rate.”

Arellano notes that the average rent per square foot in the Design District is now hovering between $130 and $150. “There are plenty of sites that would satisfy one or both uses, but [USPS] is looking for something at a price that may not exist,” he says. “The general area that they’re looking at is premium real estate. If they’d go north on NW 2nd Avenue, I’m sure there are opportunities. But they haven’t been willing to do that, from what I understand.”

On April 10, the USPS held another community meeting at the post office itself to inform customers that the Postal Service had expanded its preferred boundaries for a suitable relocation site and would take suggestions on available commercial spaces from area residents, Fetterly says. However, she couldn’t provide details about what occurred at the meeting because she didn’t attend.

Some Buena Vista residents say they and others didn’t even know about the meeting. Jerome Schiller, president of the Buena Vista East Historic Neighborhood Association, says he didn’t receive a notice, despite having a P.O. Box at the 39th Street mail center. “I’m assuming they’ll close the customer service part before the P.O. Box side,” he says. “But I don’t know any exact dates. Once it closes, it will cause a lot of disruption. It’s going to be a hassle for a lot of people -- that I can tell you.”

PostOffice_3Fetterly says the USPS followed guidelines, per its national process, which only required notices to be posted on the doors and windows of the Buena Vista Post Office and copies mailed to the office of Miami Mayor Francis Saurez. “This information was posted three weeks prior to the April 10 public meeting,” Fetterly says. “Also, I sent two news releases and several Twitter messages to media.”

Fetterly says the USPS has decided to move Buena Vista delivery operations to a new building under construction at the site of the Flagler Station at 500 NW 2nd Avenue in downtown Miami. The estimated completion date is at the end of this year.

“USPS will continue to provide retail services -- purchasing stamps, mailing packages, and picking up accountable items like registered mail -- at the current location,” Fetterly says, “until a new location is identified. Customers also will continue to pick up their post office box mail at the current Buena Vista Station.”

Outside the post office, Leyla Cole has just finished mailing a box of antiques she shipped off to a customer. Cole says she’s been going to the Design District mail center since she moved to Buena Vista three years ago. “I saw a sign on the window two months ago that said it was moving to another location,” she says. “One of the postal workers inside told me about a meeting where they were going to pick a new location. But I didn’t attend.”

Cole says she’d heard that the Postal Service identified a new location at 55th Street and Biscayne Boulevard, but was disappointed to learn from a BT reporter that no decision has been made regarding its relocation.

“I run my own business and send out packages frequently,” she says. “I need to live near a post office. This was a good location for me.”

 

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