By Steve Plunkett
Residents who packed a room in the Community Center Annex had a clear message for the U.S. Postal Service representatives who convened the meeting: Don’t you dare touch our downtown post office.
“I think we’re all here because we want you to stay exactly where you are,” said Betty Grinnan.
“This post office downtown is part of our history,” another resident said.
Postal authorities notified Mayor Susan Haynie by phone and certified letter Feb. 21 that they plan to relocate their facility, at 170 NE Second St., to somewhere between Glades Road and Camino Real and between NE/SE Fifth Avenue and NW/SW Second Avenue.
“I want to just make sure that we’re clear with everybody that the Postal Service wants to keep a presence in the downtown area,” said Damian Salazar, a USPS real estate specialist.
Postal officials have to move fast. The March 29 meeting set off a 30-day period for residents and businesses to make comments on the proposed move — in writing — to Salazar, who will forward the paperwork to the post office decision-makers. The lease on the current building expires July 13.
“The only way that we will not have a presence in the downtown area is if there is nothing available,” Salazar said. “We can’t make something out of nothing.”
City officials and the public are moving fast, too. Meeting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, City Council members passed a resolution March 26 “encouraging the Postal Service and the United States Congress to keep the post office open.”
“It’s a very, very important asset for our downtown,” Haynie said.
Attorney Robert Eisen of downtown property owners James and Marta Batmasian’s Investments Ltd. brought 1,100 petitions objecting to the post office’s closure to the CRA meeting. At the postal service’s public meeting he presented 500 more. The Batmasians own the present site.
“I’m telling you what’s going to happen,” he said. “The lease is going to expire, you’re going to move out of downtown Boca, and that’s it, that’s the way the government works.”
Outside the Community Center, signs leading to the parking lot implored residents to “Keep Our Post Office … Let Our Voices Be Heard.”
Salazar said along with relocating, the Postal Service wants to “right-size,” swapping the almost 8,500-square-foot current station with something about 4,065 square feet. The service has unused extra space at another station where it could redeploy delivery trucks that now use the downtown office.
The new site ideally would also provide 31 parking spaces, he said.
Salazar said he plans to consider at least three sites: 327 Plaza Real (800 feet from the current site), 20 SE Third St. (.4 of a mile away) and 1609 NW Boca Raton Blvd. (1 mile away). He encouraged residents to let him know of other possible sites.
Post office officials want a long-term lease, at least for 10 years with three five-year renewals. Salazar said he negotiated with a broker for the Batmasians in 2016 for a 10-year lease, but that further discussions had cut the length first to three years, then to four. The Batmasians signed the four-year proposal last September, but upon further review, USPS officials decided a four-year lease was not worth pursuing, Salazar said.
James Batmasian, who sat in the front row at the public meeting and controls two of the three potential sites, said he had no idea the Postal Service preferred a 10-year lease. He offered to redo the lease he had signed to let postal workers remain where they are now, then move into another of his properties once it can be converted.
“I can’t be more reasonable than that, sir,” Batmasian said.
Haynie said the city might make room for the Postal Service in its master plan now being developed for the government campus surrounding City Hall.
Salazar said that sometime after the 30-day comment/appeal period, USPS officials will make a final decision and notify Haynie.
Written comments should be mailed through April 29 to:
Damian Salazar, Real Estate Specialist
US Postal Service
PO Box 667180
Dallas, TX 75266-7180 Ú