USPS to Fernandina Beach: No $ale on historic post office building

Sharing is caring!

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
July 31, 2019 – 2:30 p.m.

After years of talks and negotiations, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has given the city of Fernandina Beach a final answer on the historic Post Office and Customs House building on the corner of 4th and Centre Streets downtown:  the building is not for sale.

In a letter dated July 31, 2019, USPS Vice President for Facilities Tom A. Samra advised Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin, “After evaluation of our options, we have decided the best course for the Postal Service is to retain the building and continue retail operations on the ground level.”

Martin has advised city lobbyist Arthur I. “Buddy” Jacobs of this development as well as U.S. Representative John Rutherford and U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, all of whom devoted countless hours in an attempt to secure the building for the city’s use as City Hall.  Former Senator Bill Nelson also expended political capital during his tenure trying to accomplish this goal.

Despite well publicized financial difficulties, the USPS has apparently decided that it is in their best interest to retain the 24,000 square foot 1912, Renaissance-styled structure, occupied by one employee, rather than sell the structure so that it can be repurposed for better public use.  According to the Nassau County Property Appraiser, the building is appraised at $2,587,352.

In his letter Samra indicated that the USPS would be willing to explore leasing upper floors to the city, provided the parties can come to terms on access and agreeable market rates for space.  Given the accessibility issues of the building, Martin indicated that the city would probably not pursue this option.

Related Story:  Fernandina Beach City Commission rings in 2019 with light agenda
Fernandina Beach City Hall prior to “modernization” (Courtesy Amelia Island Museum of History)

The city has experienced significant issues with its current building at 204 Ash Street. City Hall, once an imposing historic building that housed both administration and the Fire Department, has been significantly modified over the years in an attempt to meet functional needs of a modern city.  In addition to outgrowing its space, the building itself has probably reached the limits of its useful life.  Several departments — Legal, Finance, and Information Technology — have been forced to relocate to the Peck Community Center in recent years, as the city has awaited the long-anticipated acquisition of the Post Office Building.

Fernandina Beach City Hall today

Prior to receipt of this letter, Martin had asked the USPS for a decision by August 30, so that the purchase or an alternative could be incorporated into the FY2019-2020 city budget.  Now that the USPS has made its final decision, the city will be faced with additional decisions with regard to meeting space needs.  That matter will require discussion at a future City Commission meeting.

At this writing, there is no indication that the USPS will alter its decision.

This entry was posted in City News. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to USPS to Fernandina Beach: No $ale on historic post office building

  1. Dave Lott says:

    All for the best as the City’s prime interest was in the preservation of the building. Pressure will still be required in the proper maintenance of the building as that has been a low priority of the USPS for quite some time at this and other facilities. Using it as City Hall would have presented a number of very expensive challenges (accessibility, parking, environmental) and still would have resulted in a square peg being forced into a round hole. I am sure the City has already developed a space needs and relationship document. Engage a commercial broker to find space that can be remodeled to fit the City’s needs or torn down and a new facility constructed.

  2. Gerald Decker says:

    Spot on…..the building never made sense as a city hall….

  3. Frank Quigley says:

    City hall current location is prime real estate. Should consider a sale and building some suitable in a more prudent, yet accessible, location.

  4. Mrs. D. Hunter says:

    This mighty gem and the Courthouse, THE historic crown jewels of Fernandina Beach Historic District. Gotta be tough taking this defeat.

  5. robert riegler says:

    Please not yet another sprawling Government complex. More space=’s more people=’s more managment needs =’s more taxes. I either need nor want any more government “services”. Leave my checkbook alone please. This is the VERY cycle that drove many of us from the “greater” Northeast. It appears to be a vicious cycle that has now landed upon us here in Fernandina Beach alot sooner that I thought it would come and most are just too blind to see.

    At the vey least “go green” and use existing vacant space perhaps along Sadler? for the new “Complex” or better yet, locate it within the city limits……off island where the real population growth is exploding.

    What’s that sound I hear? The bulldozers of land and quality of life….and more falling trees……put up a parking lot….great old song that sad but true here on AI is now the new normal. Oh and please do not forget to organize a new citizens pannel and do a $75,000 feazability study so we can all feel so much batter as we write yet another check to the City of FB.

    A “Manager” manages to keep the project~~~company within budget and bring the project in on time in priviate industry. In government it’s expand, expand, expand, justify, justify,justify….more and more. Sad no one it seems gets it.

    • Dave Lott says:

      Robert, there is no property off island that is within the City limits of Fernandina Beach. Half the land On the island is outside the City limits as well, including much of the property on parts of Sadler. Perhaps something along 8th Street to help in the improvement of that corridor or I have heard suggestion of reacquiring land from NCSB where the largely vacant Atlantic Elementary sits.

      • robert riegler says:

        Many Thanks Dave for pointing that out however the “big picture” takeaway point I was attempting to make(and appears to have been missed) was that the whole point(and expense) of a “manager” is to keep costs and expenses in line with revenure not to create runaway expenses, more staff, more buildings, more,more,more,etc. Here on AI the taxpayers are just a never ending “open wallet” from which revenues(taxs~~special “assessments” ,etc) are taken add nasumeeee without letup. Rateables up 8%(as were reported a few weeks back)? Raise taxes another 8%!!!! No problem! Garbage cans on the beaches? No problem. $100,000.00 plus. Two years later yank them and replace with $78,000.00 worth of new cans now in the parking lots. Oh Board of Tourism paid not the taxpayers. Bull. Who cleans the beaches, maintains walkovbers, etc? Not the Board of Tourism. No one ever says “stop and think”. I can’t wait for another $$4 million(when complete $6 million dollar) building to go up funded by “grants”(who pays for this federal grant $$~~us, nothing is “free”). I’m sure we’ll have yet another “open forum” as that worked rerally well for the airport “welcome center” which was built in the face of people asking why?.

        I have a very old fashioned idea….Live within your means City of FB. You have a Manager have him manage the budget within the budget. Not happening with everyone in lock step writing those checks……..

        • Dave Lott says:

          Robert, I understand and generally agree. Nothing is free as someone, somewhere is paying. Recognizing that growth does bring additional support responsibilities and cost but they need to be kept in check. I fear FB is becoming another St. Simons.

          • Frank Quigley says:

            Good point. The FBCC should get in a van with Nassau commissioners to tour St. Simons. 30 years ago it was similar to Amelia Island today. Now, the density there is shocking. Traffic and other related issues challenge the “island vibe”.

Comments are closed.