Back on June 15, 2011, Malvaney noted that the days of the impressive and historic Gulfport Post Office were numbered. You heard that right: in 2011/2012, 43 historic post offices were sold or put on the market, including this beauty in Gulfport, Mississippi. The building was placed on the for sale list for a now reduced reasonable $2,200,000. Our neighbors over in North Little Rock saw their historic 1920 post office already sold for a mere $775,000.
The Italian Renaissance post office was constructed during 1907-1910, and remodeled in 1963 (Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Historic Resources Inventory database).
…one of the earliest and best preserved public/commercial structures in the city of Gulfport. It is a beautifully proportioned building with elegant and tasteful embellishments and is significant as one of the finest examples of Second Renaissance Revival architecture in Mississippi. …The Gulfport Post Office has been housed in this building from its first day. (Ila Ree Odom, 1983, nomination form for National Register of Historic Places)
The National Trust for Historic Preservation joined the fight to “save the post office ” June 2012 by placing historic post offices on its endangered list, citing the loss of many valuable national treasures.
Across the country, many historic post offices have already been closed, while many others are threatened by the Postal Services’ failure to establish a clear and consistent process for transferring these buildings to new owners. Local preservationists, city officials, potential developers, and others willing to rehabilitate former post offices for new uses often are frustrated by the lack of information and guidance from the Postal Service. (National Trust for Historic Preservation Names Historic U. S. Post Office Buildings to its 2012 List of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places)
The National Trust stresses that the “lack of a transparent and uniform national process…that follows federal preservation laws when considering disposal of these buildings–is needlessly placing the future of many historic post office buildings in doubt.” Referencing Gulfport’s sale, the Trust reported:
After the Postal Service announced that it would sell this historic Italian Renaissance Revival post office, Mississippi preservation officials began working with the Postal Service on an easement to protect the building’s historic character. Before this standard process was completed, however, Postal Service representatives ceased communications. When they resurfaced, weeks later, the Postal Service announced that it already had a purchase agreement in place, and said that an easement would jeopardize the sale. Though negotiations continue, and a sale and eventual rehab are likely, the Postal Services’ actions needlessly complicated the transaction.
With the process in place to sell the historic Berkeley post office last March, the mayor campaigned to “fight the privitization of our publicly funded buildings” and charged that the post office is circumventing federal regulations–a charge that has been demonstrated repeatedly in city after city. (See, for example, Save the Post Office for a city near you, along with explanations for why the post office is in such dire financial straits. Spoiler alert: it is not because they are not making a profit.)
In an Office of the Inspector General audit in June 2013, the OIG advised the USPS February 12, 2014:
- the current arrangement with the contracted real estate firm CB Richard Ellis, Inc. is putting the USPS at financial risk because CBRE represents both postal property and the prospective buyers and renters for that property
- OIG concluded the USPS oversight of the contractual arrangement was inadequate, with risks and conflict of interest, and not in the best interest of the postal service
- prior to May 2013 when the contract was revised, CBRE also solicited appraisals to set the value of the property
- CBRE represented both parties in 3 transactions prior to the contractual amendment to permit dual representation, and did not notify the postal service that it was in fact, conducting unauthorized dual representation (Lisa Rein, February 20, 2014, Watchdog criticizes Postal Service for lack of ‘arm’s length’ real estate deals, Washington Post)
- Note: the links in the Post article will redirect you to the actual OIG report to the Postal Service, whose response was “we disagree.”
Communities, preservationists, postal workers, and local governments have all been vocally critical of both the postal service and the arrangement with CB Richard Ellis, particularly as it relates to the sales of those 43 historic post offices, many of which contained New Deal murals and other forms of art, and whose future is uncertain.
…preservationists say [historic post office buildings] have been sold at relatively low prices and without adequate public notice or effort to adhere to federal preservation guidelines. (Rein, “Watchdog…”)