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Your post office may close

Look out.

The Postal Service may register a loss of nearly $7 billion this fiscal year in spite of a 2-cent increase in the price of stamps in May, cuts in staff and removal of collection boxes.

Post officials sent a list of nearly 700 potential candidates for closing or consolidation to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission for review. More may be added.

In the Houston area, officials are targeting four locations: Addicks Barker, 16830 Barker Springs; Genoa, 10935 Almeda Genoa; Westchase Finance, 3836 S Gessner and Nassau Bay, 18214 Upper Bay.

“Of the four, it looks like only one will go on for further study,” said Dionne Montague, a USPS spokeswoman in Houston.
She declined to say which one is most likely to be closed.

No mention of the locations that are reportedly for sale, including the downtown post office on Franklin, and the ones on West Gray at Dunlavy and Timmons near Alabama. I’m not sure if that’s a separate effort, or if the idea has been shelved, or if there just wasn’t anything to say about them.

How much would you pay for that post office?

The US Postal Service would like to make you a deal.

The U.S. Postal Service is unloading as many as 200 facilities in an effort to offset some of its huge financial losses.

In Houston, just two properties have been put up for sale. But another four could go on the market soon.

[…]

The postal service, which lost $2.8 billion last year delivering 9 billion fewer pieces of mail, asked lawmakers this week to lift the rule requiring mail delivery six days a week.

Because mail volume has declined so dramatically, the service is adjusting carrier routes and employees’ work hours within its mail processing plants and consolidating operations.

“This consolidation is going to leave us with excess properties we no longer require,” said national spokeswoman Sue Brennan.

The two properties for sale in Houston are at 1900 West Gray at Dunlavy and 2802 Timmons, near West Alabama. They are classified as “stations,” meaning they have both retail and delivery operations.

[…]

Before the commercial real estate market began to falter, the post office on West Gray might have sold for between $100 and $125 per square foot. Today, it could be worth much less.

“Is the West Gray site worth $125 per square foot? I don’t know. Is it worth $50? I don’t know, because there’s nothing to measure it against,” said David Cook of Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm.

Back when new developments were being readily financed, the Houston post offices might have swiftly sold to developers for apartments, condominiums, retail centers or office buildings.
Prime location

The West Gray site is particularly well-suited for retail space, Cook said, as it is surrounded by high-end neighborhoods, restaurants and shops. The building is about 18,000 square feet and sits on a 2.5-acre parcel. The Timmons office is just over 14,000 square feet on about 2.6 acres of land.

Here’s a look at the USPS annual report. They actually did better in 2008 than in 2007 – revenues were up a hair, and expenses were down; as such, their loss was much greater in 2007. But they’re now in the red on net capital, so I presume that’s why they’re looking at selling properties. For what it’s worth, the drop in mail volume was only 4.5%; it’s not clear to me that things won’t improve along with the economy. Longer term, maybe they need to scale down. But I don’t think it’s necessarily as bad as all that.

I think you’d have to be pretty desperate to try to unload the sites on Gray and Timmons unless you could be sure you were getting top dollar for them. If I were them, I’d want to hold on and try to capitalize in a stronger market. I realize everyone and his sister is asking for a bailout these days, but the Postal Service is a pretty critical part of the economy. Surely we can do something in the short term to keep them from having to make sub-optimal decisions like this.