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New London post office could be sold

By Lee Howard

Publication: The Day

Published December 07. 2012 4:00AM
Deal for building must cover cost for smaller site in city

New London - The historic U.S. Postal Service building on Masonic Street is now officially "slated for sale," according to a notice posted in the building.

But a postal service spokeswoman said Thursday there will be no sale if the price offered for the stately, marble-floored building doesn't more than cover the cost of retrofitting another smaller space in the city where the post office could continue to serve customers.

"It's just putting the toe in the water," postal service spokeswoman Christine Dugas said. "Many things have to occur before this would go through."

The postal service, racked by multibillion-dollar budget deficits and a 25 percent decline in first-class mail volume over the past six years, has been cutting costs nationwide by closing some of its largest facilities and consolidating the work to nearby offices.

The post office notice, dated Nov. 5 and sent to the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office, said that the postal service has determined that a sale would result in "no adverse effects" on other historic properties in the area and would include preservation covenants to protect the building's historic integrity. The covenants would include a provision preserving six historic 1930s murals by Thomas La Farge depicting the city's whaling history.

"The murals will remain property of the United States Postal Service upon sale of the property," according to the notice.

Dugas said that in many cases, the post office will move murals to other locations, usually within the same geographical area, when a building is sold. But if a government entity buys the building, the post office often decides to leave artwork in place, she said.

The notice said that if the post office leaves murals in place, state historic preservation officers would have the right to inspect them periodically to make sure they are being maintained in their original condition.

No mention was made in the notice about where the city's letter-carrier operations would be moved, and Dugas didn't immediately have an answer. But the postal service previously had announced that it was considering consolidating letter-carrier operations to Waterford while maintaining a customer-service presence in New London.

Dugas said the New London facility will not be closed unless a buyer is found. The building would never go vacant, she added.

A for-sale sign would likely be posted in the coming days, she said, adding that employees already have been notified of the move.

"We're early in the process," Dugas said.

The New London post office, a brick-and-stone building on 1.2 acres designed by local architects Ed Keefe and Morris Payne, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. The three-story building, completed in 1934, features more than 45,000 square feet of space.

l.howard@theday.com

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