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New Canaan post office still without a place to go

Published 4:10 pm, Wednesday, December 4, 2013
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Less than 60 days before it loses its current location, the New Canaan Post Office is still seeking a permanent site and a temporary space for a trailer.

After almost two years of failed negotiations, the lease for the 2 Pine St. location ends Jan. 31. According to several sources, the post office is currently focused on finding a space for a trailer so it can continue operating in New Canaan while it searches for a long-term location.

Even if there is a deal for a new permanent site within the next few days or weeks, it would still take "roughly three or four months" to rehabilitate it, said CBRE Executive Vice President Paul King, a realtor who's helping the post office find a new location.

First Selectman Robert Mallozzi said the post office recently asked the town for a piece of land so it can park a trailer for a few months. But he said he would prefer to see a signed long-term lease before he offers it a temporary space.

"What insurance would we have that they will keep looking for a permanent location?" Mallozzi said. "I would need a lease in hand with a private landlord because I need to make sure of their commitment to this community."

Until last week, the post office was trying to negotiate with one of two locations -- 215 Elm St. and 19 Vitti St. -- King said. John Engel, owner of the Elm Street location, said Tuesday that a deal was not reached for his location. U.S. Postal Service spokesman Christine Dugas said the Vitti Street site would not work.

"Upon further consideration, the Vitti Street location cannot be configured to accommodate the number of work stations we need to service our customers here," she said in an email. "We continue to search for both an appropriate location for a short-term trailer to be positioned until a long-term location can (be) secured and upgraded for postal purposes."

Dugas said rumors about the post office leaving New Canaan were false.

"As the community has indicated, we are committed to serving the New Canaan in the downtown area," she said. "Concerns that we have backed out of our commitment to New Canaan are ill-informed."

After the post office finds a new permanent site, there will be a variety of factors to be considered so the space is ready to accommodate the post office.

"These include factors such as foot traffic, number of rented post office boxes, and ability to provide appropriate work space and security for our operations," said Melissa Lohnes, another U.S. Postal Service spokesman. "Our negotiations for a site may also include factors such as the willingness of a new landlord to provide modifications or regular maintenance to a location as well as fair market pricing for our needs."

Other factors include the space's loading and parking capacities, insurance needs and water availability.

Mallozzi said he the town has "very limited options" to offer because of zoning regulations, but he said he was evaluating those choices in consultation with Planning and Zoning officials. As the clock keeps ticking, he said the post office should now "double their effort to find a location."

"It's disappointing," he said. "If it was CVS or Walgreens that was in negotiations to find a site in New Canaan, they would have found one a long time ago."

The post office has been on the corner of Pine and Park streets for more than 50 years. Mrs. Green's Natural Market, an organic grocer, already has signed a lease with Elm Street Partners and is scheduled to move to that location by February.

Many residents are still afraid that they will have to start going to Stamford for their postal service needs. James Buckner, a retired New Canaan resident who goes to the post office about three times a week, said he doesn't mind that the post office is moving as long as the new space is still in New Canaan and similar, if not better, than the current one.

"My two requirements are parking and proximity," he said.

New Canaan native Lydia Lord said she understands why residents are concerned with the relocation but she said she would not be affected at all. She said most of the service offered by the post office can also be done online these days.

"It's sad that it's going away, but I really don't care. I just come here for stamps," Lord said.

Fran Snelwar, another resident, said she goes to the post office once a week and would prefer it to stay in the downtown area. She said she would not mind going to a trailer for a few months.

"I think we're all sad the post office is leaving" its current site, she said. "No one wants it to be in a trailer, but we should do anything to get us a permanent location."

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson