Mayor: ‘Every effort will be made to keep them in town’
The U.S. Post Office in the town of Washington has announced that it will move from its current space at 389 Main Street #B to a yet to be determined location “in or near” the town of Washington, but not beyond the boundaries of zip code 22747.
“That is our goal,” said Rick Hancock, a U.S. Postal Service real estate specialist based in Raleigh, N.C. “Obviously we would want to stay in Washington itself, but that’s [only] a couple of blocks here and there.”
Washington Mayor John Fox Sullivan stressed upon receiving the news: “My goal, our goal as a town, is to find space that makes sense for them in the town.”
Speaking to the Rappahannock News by phone this week, Hancock said the Post Office has been in its current space — which it leases from town councilman and Inn at Little Washington owner Patrick O’Connell — since at least 1981. He confirmed that the landlord and Postal Service began discussions in recent years that centered around the Post Office moving into the rear of the same building.
“We were going to take some space in the rear and give up some space in the front for a [proposed] bakery or something,” said Hancock, “and we were all good to go from a Postal Service standpoint. But as time goes by everything changes” — a process he described as a “cumulative effect.”
That includes a new need for a larger and more efficiently designed space, which is required in part because of the increase in recent years of large package deliveries from online shippers, especially Amazon. Right now the Post Office space is 1900 square feet.
Hancock said adequate space for Postal trucks to load, unload and park is also key when considering a future property.
Reached by the News this week, O’Connell said the Post Office was already a tenant when he purchased the brick building several decades ago. He said the Post Office is currently on a “month-to-month lease,” as is the Country Cafe immediately next door.
From the Post Office’s standpoint, the landlord added, the space needs to be “brought up to code,” which O’Connell said would be extremely difficult to accomplish were the facility to remain open for business.
“It would be a construction zone for some time and awkward for any tenant to endure,” O’Connell said, especially for customers who have grown accustomed to parking out front.
“That is why I introduced the idea of them moving into the rear of the building” he recalled. “But then they came back and said even with that space we’d planned for them to move into a separate facility would also be needed for boxes to be stored.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Sullivan stressed that the Postal Service made it clear — and he wants to now assure town and county residents — that “nobody is shutting down the Post Office in Washington. They prefer to be in the town of Washington. And if there is nothing acceptable in the town then they are open to doing something in the zip code of Washington, which likely means out on [Route] 211 somewhere.”
“They want a larger space,” he also said. “They want everything on one floor, a location that is handicapped accessible, and there are a couple of places in the town that might work. But it’s premature for me to say what they are. But for all of the obvious reasons we want to keep the Post Office in the town. And every effort will be made to keep them in town.”
Losing the Post Office would arguably impact the perceived vitality of Washington, given it’s one of the few remaining gathering spots for county residents conducting daily business in the town.
“It was saddening to see the library move out of town and the bank move out of town,” he said. “Naturally, I hope a more suitable location, central to the town, can be discovered for [the Post Office]. I think we have some leads.”
The mayor also assured residents that moving the Post Office to its new location would “take six months to one year to play out. They are not leaving the [current] space in the imminent future.”
“These things take time,” agreed Hancock. “We’re not going anywhere right now. Let’s look at what is going to be the right move.”