The city of Columbia wants to purchase the main downtown post office.
The 196,000-square-foot building and its 9.5 acres of property is presently owned by a private trust that has placed it on the market. If the purchase is approved by City Council next week, the city would have to honor the U.S. Postal Service’s lease through 2036, so the post office would remain on the site.
Although the building appears from Assembly Street to be only one story, it is actually a four-story building built behind a bluff that drops 90 feet to the park’s ground level. At ground level, there are expansive parking lots, loading docks and maintenance facilities sitting mostly unused because their functions were transferred to newer facilities decades ago.
City officials plan to negotiate with the U.S. Postal Service to have some of the parking dedicated for Finlay Park visitors and possibly make a tract of land near the intersection of Assembly and Laurel streets available for private development, either office or residential.
Also, the park could serve as a natural bridge between the Main Street and Vista districts, if a way could be found to make crossing busy Assembly Street more inviting to pedestrians.
“It just makes sense to purchase this property,” Columbia Assistant City Manager Missy Gentry said.
The property is presently owned by the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation through the Honolulu Rapid Transit Co. The foundation is based in both Baltimore, Md., and Honolulu, Hawaii. The foundation since 1980 has provided $2.2 billion in grants for housing, health, jobs, education and community services in the United States and Israel.
It is unclear why ownership is in the name of the transit authority.
The city has a contract to buy the land and building 1601 Assembly St. for $3.85 million.
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