The Arlington Road and Wisconsin Avenue post offices could be closed, consolidated and moved to a new downtown Bethesda location in less than a year, a United States Postal Service official said at a community meeting Tuesday evening.
The move is part of a nation-wide effort by USPS to consolidate or close post offices in part to help face declining revenues.
“The decision had been made awhile back to convert some of the postal-owned assets in heavily urban areas – and certainly this qualifies as one – that are essentially being heavily underutilized and would be worth a lot more doing something else with,” said Dennis Perry, a real estate specialist for the USPS eastern facilities service office.
The postal service lost $8 billion last year and is expected to lose close to $10 billion this year, Perry said.
“The bottom line is, our revenue stream simply is not there,” Perry said.
At the meeting, residents drove home the importance of the new location being as accessible for pedestrians and alternative transportation users as is the current Wisconsin Avenue location, located next to the Bethesda Metro station. At the same time, many emphasized the post office’s importance as a community icon.
“That is a gathering place for Bethesda – that’s the character of Bethesda, the heart of Bethesda. It’s the one thing that defines Bethesda, and it needs to be a public place,” said Bethesda resident Ai-Ling Louie.
Louie said she recently moved to Bethesda from New Jersey, and chose to live here because of the community’s walkability. In an effort to save money and be green, she often leaves her car at home and takes the bus downtown to run her errands – including stopping by the Wisconsin Avenue post office.
“I’d like to be able to walk to the post office as I do now from Metro Center,” Louie said.
The Gazette reported that the historic Wisconsin Avenue post office was sold to developers the Donohoe Companies for $4 million in March. Donohoe is currently leasing the site to USPS. USPS is also expecting to sell the Arlington Road location, Perry said.
“A contract is brewing,” Perry said. “It’s definitely going to be sold.”
USPS is now in search of a downtown Bethesda location that’s about 4,000 square feet, Perry said.
Dave Dabney, executive director of the Bethesda Urban Partnership, suggested locating the new post office near a Bethesda Circulator stop or an underutilized Bethesda parking garage to help accommodate parkers and those using transit or walking.
Both the Wisconsin Avenue post office and the Madonna of the Trail statue next to it are designated historic.
The public has 30 days to comment, and another 30 days after a potential site for a new post office has been identified. To comment, email Dennis Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 336-665-2863.