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US Postal Service Says Sale of Historic Downtown Santa Monica Facility Close

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

December 5, 2013 -- US Postal Service officials said Wednesday they are close to striking a deal to sell the 75-year-old building that was once home to Downtown Santa Monica’s main post office.

Richard Maher, a spokesman for the USPS, said that the federal agency and its realtor, CBRE Group, were in negotiations with the highest bidder for the Fifth Street building, which the USPS shuttered last June as part of a nationwide effort to save the agency money.

A deal “could be soon if things continue well,” Maher told The Lookout Wednesday in an email.

“We have multiple bids on the property and are currently in negotiations with the highest bidder,” he said.

However, Maher said that he couldn’t go into more detail.

“I can only say ‘multiple,’” Maher said when asked about the specific number of bidders. And, when asked if he could identify the highest bidder, Maher said, “Sorry, cannot provide that.”

One of those bidders is Metropolitan Pacific Capital (MPC), a local development firm which is in the running to develop 2.5 acres of City-owned land across the street from the post office building.

In August, The Lookout learned that MPC’s principal, local developer John Warfel, had been eyeing the 30,000-square-foot building built in 1938 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA).

At the time, Councilmember Bob Holbrook said that Warfel was considering the possibility of turning the building into something like San Francisco's Ferry Building Marketplace. ("Local Developer Poised to Reshape Downtown Santa Monica," August 21)

Several sources said that Oracle Corporation CEO and Co-Founder Larry Ellison is also interested in the building.

Regardless of who wins the biding war, the new owner will have to adhere to a strict preservation covenant that protects much of the building’s original features, including hanging light fixtures, the wooden walls and ceilings, metal staircase rails and tall tables inside. ("City Council Approves Preservation Covenant for Historic Post Office Building," August 29)

Even though the building will be preserved, many former patrons were upset by the USPS’s decision to shutter the building in June and turn a sorting station at Seventh Street and Olympic Boulevard -- about a 15 minute walk from the old site -- into the downtown’s new full-service post office. ("Parking Troubles Patrons at New Santa Monica Post Office," December 4)

“I have yet to hear one positive comment about the new location,” said Reinhard Kargl, co-chair of the Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition.

“Residents have told the USPS that the location on Seventh Street is too far away from Santa Monica's walkable business center and offers no improvement, but the USPS is in the habit of not listening to customers,” he said.

Still, officials said that closing the Fifth Street post office will save the financially-troubled federal agency about $3 million over the next 10 years in addition to the money made from the sale.

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