Post Office plan approved by Planning Board

On August 14, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

The old Post Office building at 237 Washington St. will be decommissioned by the Postal Service once the new Bow St. facility is put into service. ~Photo by Harry Kane

The old Post Office building at 237 Washington St. will be decommissioned by the Postal Service once the new Bow St. facility is put into service. – Photo by Harry Kane

By Harry Kane

The United States Postal Service building in Union Square will close their doors and a smaller, nearby shop will replace the traditional post office with a downsized storefront. This transition has not begun yet, but once renovations on the new site are finished, the modern Post Office will be relocated to 16 Bow St.

A proposal for a special permit to modify the 16 Bow St. building for Post Office use was recommended to the Planning Board at the August 8 public hearing. The city approved the proposal, but one particular issue is still pending: signage variation. Somerville wants to have a wooden painted sign instead of a back-lite box sign. This decision will have to await a determination from the United States Postal Service as to whether this deviation from its usual signage is acceptable.

The current post office at 237 Washington St., which opened in 1935, is 13,532 sq. feet. The historic building will be replaced by a 1438 sq. foot storefront space at 16 Bow St.

This project has been reviewed by the Massachusetts Historic Society and the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission. It has received a “no adverse effect by both parties,” said Robert N. Macleod, architect for this project.

The front of the renovated building on Bow St. will have a recessed entryway, with handicapped accessibility. It will offer a double entry into the post office, one into the box lobby and the other into the service lobby. The service lobby will be closed outside of service hours, while the box lobby would offer extended hours.

There will be two service desks and plenty of P.O. boxes. But it is not a location where there will be mail carriers. Many of the main operations will be moved to a Post Office in Chelsea.

The exterior renovation will include a small loading platform at the rear of the building, which will help with deliveries.

“If I had my way I’d keep the post office where it is,” said Ward 3 Alderman Thomas F. Taylor. “I’m concerned a little bit about traffic, but I’ll wait to see what happens.”


28 Responses to “Post Office plan approved by Planning Board”

  1. Paul says:

    What is happening with the existing location? Another subsidized housing project from SCC?

  2. sharon says:

    Whatever the mayor wants. What a sin. I suspect they will soon destroy this beautiful, historic building.

  3. Villen J says:

    The building is on the national historical registry so they will hopefully not be able to destroy it. And if they do everyone should protest it.

  4. Andy says:

    Will they turn it into some community space? Or perhaps expensive modified condos? Ha, ha, ha.

  5. Joan F says:

    I think the City is also trying to have the Post Office be a historic property that can’t be destroyed or changed.

  6. ritepride says:

    “historic property” sacred ground, this is somerville…Cha~ching..the envelope puhleez. If he could he would sell off the cemetary grounds in the city to please his developer buddie$.

  7. JohnR says:

    Moving a post office is a really big deal. There are federal laws that require the USPS to seek public input before moving a station. And make a case that the move should be allowed. Especially one on the National Register of Historic Places.

    None of this has happened here. The City is fast-tracking the move because they want to clear out the properties under the Union Square Revitalization Plan. They’ve already taken the scrap yards, they’re gunning for Ricky’s Flower Market, and now they’re breaking the rules to slide the USPS out of a historically protected building as quickly and quietly as they can.

    The Planning Board approving this move so fast and with so little public notice stinks to high heaven.

  8. Bostom says:

    “The Planning Board approving this move so fast and with so little public notice stinks to high heaven.” JohnR

    It’s a sacrilege, really, to try to parody great writing (the screenplay it’s based upon won an Academy Award in 1943 for ex-Red Sox GM Theo Epstein’s grandfather and great uncle, identical twins Phillip and Julius Epstein, who, during the Hollywood blacklist, were asked if they ever belonged to a subversive organization. Their answer: “Yes. Warner Brothers.”), but let me try.

    Rick’s American Post Office: “How can you close me up and tear me down? On what grounds?”

    Captain Cakes: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling and redevelopment is going on in here with the fate of such a beautiful building that has meant so much to so many for so long in the balance!”

    [a developer rides in on a blue horse and hands him a pile of money]

    “Your winnings, sir.”

    Captain Cakes: [sotto voce] “Oh, thank you very much.”

    Twenty years ago they said Davis Square was the Paris of North America.
    Can we still say “We’ll always have Paris?” Do we still have Paris? Can we even drive through the Paris of North America this weekend? The answer, btw, is “Yes” – it’s Route 16, a state highway instead – that’s being shut down this Sunday.

    Union Square is in the same spot Casablanca was in 1942: it’s about to be invaded and occupied and it’ll never be the same because the things that made it Union Square: things like the Post Office and the Gulf Station where they treat you so well and Ricky’s “American” Flower Market and the ethnic restaurants that’ll be priced out by higher rents and Riverside Motorsports and Mike’s Auto and God forbid, The Midnight, – businesses whose owners have devoted their lives (and invested big $) in, which aren’t part of one man’s “vision” – that of a glass-skinned Taj Mahal, er, Library which soon after opening may have to be converted to an Aquarium if the drainage problems there aren’t fixed, and the creation of one more drinking/dining/festival/destination spot at the end of a “T” loop. Like Rick and Ilsa’s long-ago love, soon to be sacrificed in the name of a cause greater than any of us: in this case, one man’s edifice complex.

    “…it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of”…Somerville’s…”little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”

    I live here. I learned to understand that a long time ago.

  9. sure, sure says:

    sure, Villen, I will be out there protesting. After i’m done with my two jobs, and taking care of a home and family. with what precious time are we all supposed to protest? and as you see from other comments, we’re wasting that precious time. We elected people to protect us, and they’ve all abandoned us.

  10. Somerbreeze says:

    This is Jackie Confetti with a special message to all Somerville residents from City Hall:

    The upcoming Union Square Urban Pond will be a joint development of the New England Aquarium, Parsons-Brinkerhoff and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers…

    At the Grand Opening, the Walnut Street Aquanauts synchronized swimming club will perform, along with Michael Phelps, and a special MIT-created Esther Williams clone. Aquarium-trained seals will take the day off from City Hall to also perform.

    All streets in the city will be closed to vehicular traffic until further notice due to this spectacular event!

    We anticipate Police and Fire Dept. headquarters will be closed for the duration due to drainage and dredging issues.

    And remember, folks, to bring your Scuba gear–just in case! Tee hee.

  11. Ron Newman says:

    LOL, Somerbreeze, that’s a good one.

  12. Jose says:

    Bostom and Summerbreeze, bravo!
    I can’t wait until all of the mayor’s supporters begin to lament on the little shops and restaurants that will be priced out of the soon-to-be oh-so-hip Union Square. We’ve seen it happen, and still happening, in Davis. How they don’t expect something different I don’t know.

  13. good one says:

    yes, Somerbreeze, good one. a Finding Nemo event? or drive trash trucks by and bet on which one gets eaten?

  14. Somerbreeze says:

    Let’s give Ritepride credit for “Jackie Confetti”–my OJ nearly came outta
    my honker when I saw that moniker before….

  15. Postman Pat says:

    Isn’t it common these days for Post Offices to downsize or shut completely? Seems fairly obvious that the current Union Sq Post Office is too big for what is required. Seems a solid financial decision to sell it. It’s a listed building so it will remain but in some other guise. Call me naive, but I am not seeing the conspiracy here.

  16. Joan F says:

    I don’t think the city is responsible for making sure the Post Office complies with federal law? That’s on the Post Office and the federal govt to do. With the number of post offices they’re closing across the country, my guess is they know what they need to comply with.

    Plus, they have been moving most of their distribution to the large Chelsea facility. They have said they just don’t need both the current large Union Square site and the large Chelsea one. Save the Post Office, buy a stamp, don’t send your emails, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to stay in the current building.

  17. Rob B says:

    I believe use of the Bow Street site as a post office will generate significantly more pedestrian traffic than the existing retail store resulting in more individuals attempting to cross the street at the corner of Bow and Walnut Streets, which has no crosswalk. It is already common to see pedestrians darting into traffic to make the crossing. This is likely because the next closest crosswalks are a block in either direction, both of which require pedestrians to make three separate crossings (the intersections of Warren Ave/ Bow Street and Wesley Park/Summer Street/Bow Street) in order to legally and safely cross the street.

    In advance of the Planning Board meeting, I submitted a letter regarding this concern, in part because the Planning Dept staff report concluded that, “The circulation patterns for motor vehicles and pedestrians which would result from the use or structure will not result in conditions that create traffic congestion or the potential for traffic accidents on the site or in the surrounding area. The proposal would not alter circulation patterns for motor vehicles or pedestrians as a result of this project.”

    None of the Planning Board members or staff discussed concerns for pedestrian safety during the Planning Board meeting, so I can only assume they do not see this as a pressing issue. Time will tell. I wonder if the addition of Eastern Bank to that block will change pedestrian and vehicular circulation in that area.

  18. Ron Newman says:

    Please tell us more about Eastern Bank? I did not know they were planning to open a branch in Union Square.

  19. ritepride says:

    See down the line banks, big business want to “sucker” everyone into going paperless. Then they will crash their systems, lose any (payment) records that are in your favor, come after you and take your home, etc., and throw you into the street as a pauper.

    It’s already happened recently, as Congresss bailed out corporate greed and sold the citizens down the tubes foreclosing on homes. What did the giants like Ford do recently, in appreciation? Built a new plant in MEXICO and outsourced more American jobs.

    Next time it will be on a grander scale. Forget “saving trees”, Put politicians in prison and keep a paper trail and save your butt instead!

  20. Somerbreeze says:

    @ Rob B. Absolutely, there should be a crosswalk on Bow Street just
    before Walnut Street, when the new post Office site gets installed on Bow Street.

    Presently NO crosswalk there, and pedestrians already dangerously cross against oncoming Bow Street traffic.

  21. Rob B says:

    @Ron: Eastern Bank is taking the space that Union Square Veterinarian used to occupy–right where Somerville Ave loops back onto Bow Street. My guess is there was a rent increase that drove out the vet (which moved to a location on Highland Ave).

  22. Marie says:

    Goodbye Union Square. Soon all of those clamoring for re-development will be bemoaning the loss of character and diversity. Rumor has it that several long-time, diverse businesses in Union Square have already put their property up for sale or lease. They already cannot afford what is starting in Union Square. Be careful what you wish for.

  23. goodbye says:

    so true. nothing against new people, everyone’s welcome. but the changes we’re making attract a certain population, These are (typically) not people who volunteer to coach little league, soccer, etc. you stroll in to vote with no lines when it’s local. Lines around the corner when it’s national. Ask what ward/precinct they live in? Who’s your Alderman? No clue. The high property tax, rents/mortgages, and never ending festival closures drive out the folks who built the city, and that’s just disrespectful.

  24. Villenous says:

    The Post Office has been talking about this move for years. Last I heard the city wants to preserve the building and convert it into an arts center. Now waiting for people prematurely blasting the city for knocking down the building, which I would bet will not happen, to dream up reasons to blast the city for converting it into an arts center.

  25. Bob says:

    Let’s move municipal elections to even years to be consistent with state and national elections. I think that would engage more people in local government.

  26. ritepride says:

    Well said “goodbye”. The other ? they should be asking at the polls: Did you already absentee ballot in your home state? When the national elections occur and the political parties rally the college students to vote you know that type of stuff is occurring.

  27. Marie says:

    Ritepride, you are so right. I wouldn’t want local elections anywhere near national elections. If you don’t care enough to vote, why would we move it to ‘accommodate’ you? One of my pet peeves is allowing students, the ultimate temporary resident, to vote locally. It has been skewing Somerville and Boston elections for years.

  28. Bob says:

    I think if we had city elections on even years, it would encourage more people to get engaged, ask questions, and require candidates to do more outreach/undergo scrutiny. By having it on odd years, when the media aren’t as focused on elections generally, many citizens aren’t even aware elections are happening. As a result, I think the folks who have influence over city elections tend to represent a subset of citizens with narrower interests (e.g. city employees, city vendors, developers, seniors). It seems like we’re intentionally trying to keep it that way?

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