The Post Office in the Town is running out of time to make their delivery to a new location.
As announced earlier this summer, the lease for the United States Postal Service (USPS) Post Office location at the Bunker Hill Mall has not been renewed, and that has sent the Post Office scrambling for a new location – and officials said they’re running out of time.
In fact, if negotiations don’t come through to extend the Post Office lease at another location within the Mall – the Town’s post office might have to be located in a trailer on a parking lot somewhere within the 02129 zip code.
“I’ve been dealing with this for about eight months,” said Kurtis Bullard, a USPS real estate specialist from North Carolina. “There was actually a space that opened up we would have gone into awhile back, but I didn’t have the funding then to proceed. Finally, the funding came through and was approved and they said it was time to hit the community for some feedback. We’re down to about two months. The timing isn’t good. We’re in a real time crunch. It’s not a good situation. When I have to come to town, it means we’re losing our lease and we couldn’t work out the situation. Time is a challenge here. Two months is nothing in the context of our operations – especially when we have to build something out…We’re trying to hit it on all fronts. We’re trying to negotiate something with our current landlord and we’re also looking on the market for available property.”
Bullard said they are looking at locations now, including Kipo’s Pizza shop on Bunker Hill Street, and a location on the other side of Rutherford Avenue. He stressed that he is taking input from the community, and if they knew of a location, he would like to hear about that.
Bullard stressed that all is not lost in negotiations with New England Development, the owner of the Mall, but it has been tough and time is running out.
“We have a local broker that is giving us options for what’s available on the open market and we are in talks with our current landlord about possible options within the Mall so we’re hitting everything,” he said. “We’ve been in negotiations. Obviously, the Bunker Hill Mall is going to be going through a relatively large re-development. Our objective is to stay and see if we can stay…Our number one priority is to maintain service because we don’t want interruptions in service.”
To that point, District Manager Michael Rakes said if they have to put up a trailer in a parking lot in Charlestown, they would do that.
“I’ll do everything in my power to keep the post office here,” he said. “Worst case scenario is if we have to, we will put up a temporary trailer here. We’ll make it the best we can. We’ll park it in a parking lot, but we’ll do everything we can to keep it in your neighborhood. We don’t want anyone walking across bridges or highways to get there.”
New England Development said they are working with the USPS, and they are also contemplating upgrades but don’t have any approvals yet.
“For over a year, Bunker Hill Mall has been in discussions with the United States Post Office in regard to their lease and potential locations at Bunker Hill Mall,” said Issie Shait, executive vice president of property management. “We understand that the Post Office is committed to staying in Charlestown. Bunker Hill Mall is considering some upgrades, but, at this time, we do not have approved plans and we will continue to update the community as more information becomes available.”
The USPS location now must be vacated by Dec. 31, and the space will be used for CVS Pharmacy to expand its operations. It is widely believed, but not confirmed, that the CVS would like to put a ‘Minute Clinic’ there.
Another postal disappointment for neighbors was the announcement that any new permanent facility would be downsized from 5,000 square feetto about 1,500 square feet
That, Bullard said, is the trend across the country, to downsize square footage in retail stores to try to save money. However, he bookended that by saying that no service currently at the post office would be lost, including PO Boxes.
Several residents said they didn’t like the sound of that, particularly since lines are already long and the population of the Town is expected to increase substantially due to new residential development in the works.
“There are days I’ve spent 45 minutes in that line at the post office,” said Elaine Donovan. “I hope when you find something permanent you consider expanding…We’re going to see thousands and thousands of new residents in the next few years.”
Tom Cunha, chair of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC), said he is worried that if the post office gets stuck in a trailer, it could end up being lost permanently.
“I would be very disappointed as a community if we have to go pst Rutherford Avenue to get to the post office,” he said. “I think you need to narrow your look to the Rutherford, Bunker Hill and Medford Street area. The community needs a real ‘Whew’ assurance here. My main concern is that 02129 moves and we don’t get it back and that’s a huge problem because that’s our identity.”
Bullard’s appearance was the trigger for a 30-day comment period on the relocation of the post office. He called for comments or tips from anyone in the public. They can be sent to him by e-mail at [email protected], or by calling (336) 430-4937.