The property that hosts the U.S. Post Office in Maplewood Village needs some help.
And the Township of Maplewood wants to provide that help by having the property designated "in need of rehabilitation" and creating a redevelopment plan for the site.
The first step took place last night when the Planning Board resolved unanimously that the site met state criteria to be designated "in need of rehabilitation." The Planning Board made the move after an explanation of the site's history by Mayor Vic DeLuca and the presentation of a rehabilitation study (attached here) by Paul Grygiel, certified planner with Phillips Preiss Grygiel LLC.
DeLuca noted that he has been trying to make progress with the Post Office on the site for the past 10 years and that the Town began taking action regarding the property early last year. Leases for the property and building on the land — which is owned by the town — are to expire in 2013. Last year, the and the building owner that it would not be renewing the land lease.
DeLuca said that the Post Office has now indicated that it will be leaving the space in November 2013. He said that the town is working toward having some automated retail post office service integrated in any development of the site, but that the sorting facility needed to be removed from the already congested Maplewood Village.
DeLuca noted that the town was not wedded to the notion of keeping mail sorting within its boundaries — although there is a potential site on Rutgers Street that could rent a sorting facility to the U.S. Post Office with some retail. DeLuca noted that the U.S. Postal Service was required by law to have at least one post office situation in each municipality or zip code. There is currently another post office located on Springfield Avenue in Maplewood.
Overall, the mayor was more interested in the development potential of the three tax lots on Maplewood Avenue that currently house the U.S. Postal Service.
"We want to be in control of development on that site," said the mayor.
DeLuca said the town was faced with either disposing of the site through public auction or designating it as an area in need of rehabilitation.
"Two plus years is not a long time to get this going," said DeLuca, referring to the November 2013 date for the Post Office to vacate the site. DeLuca said that he envisions a mixed-use development, perhaps with ground-floor parking and retail and residential units above. Previously the mayor has indicated that the town has spoken with Kings Super Markets about the possibility of relocating the Maplewood Village Kings in a new Post Office site development.
In presenting his 10-page report, Grygiel noted that the current building and sorting facility are not a conforming use within the commercial area. "It's an industrial operation in the midst of retail." Leading factors in meeting rehabilitation status were the age of the structure (more than 50 years) and the age of the water and sewer infrastructure, which date back to the 1920s and which are in need of serious upgrades, according to Grygiel.
The Planning Board unanimously agreed with Grygiel.
"What next?" asked Planning Board Chair Tom Carlson of Grygiel.
The planner said that the governing body could now draft a redevelopment plan [or hire someone to draft it]. Grygeil noted that redevelopment plans can be very detailed and can proscribe design guidelines and other desirable characteristics for any potential development (as per — or the old police station site).
Planning Board member John Branigan wondered about the sustainability of the existing building. "Someone could say it's the perfect example of a 1958 International Design mistake."
The suggestion elicited some laughs. DeLuca said that such a scenario had not been given consideration since the building is in poor condition and is not well suited for any conforming re-use.