The United States Postal Service has officially listed Napa’s earthquake-damaged downtown post office building for sale. An asking price was not provided, so it will be up to bidders to make their best offers for the historic property.
The property “represents an exceptional opportunity to acquire a historically significant building in Napa’s thriving downtown,” said a USPS marketing brochure.
Potential bidders are invited to attend a tour of the property, at 1351 Second St., on Oct. 26, Nov. 9 or Nov. 16. Within 30 days after the tours, bids will be due.
“The goal of this sale is to obtain a result that is in the best interests of the USPS,” said Gus Ruiz, USPS spokesman.
“Selling the post office is the best way to preserve this historic structure,” said Rep. Mike Thompson. “The Franklin Station Post Office is one of our community’s crown jewels.”
The post office, which was built in 1933 in the Art Deco style, was badly damage in the August 2014 earthquake and has remain closed since then.
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In early July, the USPS originally proposed demolishing the structure on Second Street. The agency said that it would cost $8 million to repair quake damage, while it would only cost $500,000 for demolition. After public outcry, the federal agency reversed course and said it would sell the building to a buyer who can repair the structure and preserve its architectural integrity.
A temporary postal facility opened this summer at Second and School streets.
The parcel is 28,720 square feet and includes 13,470 square feet of building. That includes the main floor and a basement area. The USPS no longer needs such a large space, but it would consider leasing back 5,000 square feet on the main floor, said the marketing brochure.
Commercial real estate agent Michael C. Holcomb, of Strong and Hayden said it would be hard to determine a price until the property is inspected and due diligence is completed.
The current condition of the building is “such an unknown,” he said. “You’d have to get an idea of what part to the building would need to remain as far as a historic building.”
Holcomb said that a couple of his clients have expressed interest in the building. He plans to attend one of the tours. He said he thinks a likely buyer is “somebody who has the resources to be able to preserve it.” That may mean a developer or someone who will buy it for their own purposes, he said.
The agent said he doesn’t think a lease-back by the USPS is likely. “It’d be great if the post office could figure out how to stay there but I think it would have to be up to a developer or buyer to determine if it’s going to make sense.”
The USPS is leasing a building owned by the Holcomb family across the street from the damaged landmark.
Michael J. Miller, partner at Keegan & Coppin in Napa, said that the property could possibly be adapted for a retail or office use.
“I hesitate to think it could be converted into a restaurant,” because of the cost involved.
Jeff Freitas, real estate manager at the city of Napa, said he hadn’t toured the property yet, but he estimated that the land value itself could be worth $2 million to $4 million, depending on the parking requirements and zoning.
The property is currently zoned for community purposes such as government offices, said Rick Tooker, city of Napa community development director. But that doesn’t exclude other uses, he said.
If a developer wanted to buy it for commercial or retail use, they would have to request rezoning and a general plan amendment, he said.
The property is also in the parking exempt district, which means no on-site parking is required in the future, except for residential development. Today, the parcel includes 28 parking spaces.
The post office was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. That means whomever does buy it must maintain the historical integrity of the structure, which can add to the costs of any development plan.
An argument could be made that the land is more valuable than the building, said Miller. “There is so much work to be done. How do you make the economics pay off?”
Either the USPS has to discount the price or a buyer has to be able to lease the space for enough money to cover the purchase costs, said Miller.
The property is listed on a USPS website created specifically to sell postal properties called uspspropertiesforsale.com. Listing agent Don LeBuh of CBRE Group declined to comment on the sale.
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