Downtown Redmond will likely be without a post office by next summer, an agency spokesman confirmed to Patch Wednesday afternoon.
As first reported by the Redmond Reporter, the United States Postal Service had been planning to move out of its into a smaller space nearby but is now leaning toward moving into a delivery and distribution center it already owns in east Redmond at 7241 185th Ave. NE.
Ernie Swanson, a spokesman for the postal service's Seattle district, told Patch the move is not yet finalized but that the search for a new downtown space has ended for the time being. The adjustment to the agency's moving plans is largely due to financial reasons, he said.
“We realized that leasing space in downtown Redmond is pretty pricey, and we own the building where we would be going to," Swanson said. “We feel we can do (the move) without jeopardizing service to our customers.”
Swanson said the new location in east Redmond would offer all the same services as the current downtown post office. Mail routes and delivery times would be unaffected by the move, he said.
The initial decision to move into a new space was prompted by a decline in mail volume and a need to find a smaller, more cost-efficient location, Swanson said. Concerns about the viability of the postal service continue to be discussed at the national level, as Americans rely less and less on mail delivery.
“Our mail volume nationwide is down over 20 percent in the last four or five years, and I imagine that’s pretty much true at the local level as well," Swanson said. "Therefore, we have more facility space than we really need.”
The current downtown post office is located at 16135 NE 85th St., and the postal service's lease on the building ends in May 2012. Swanson said he expects the move would happen sometime around then.
The postal service has had an office in downtown Redmond for at least 25 years, Swanson said.
Redmond Mayor John Marchione said he would be disappointed if the move took place as planned. The mayor was aware the postal service was planning to move out of the current space but was originally told the agency would keep a small retail location downtown.
"Everybody needs a post office," Marchione said. "It’d be a disservice to the community to make people go out to east Redmond for their post office needs. I hope they’d reconsider and find a location in the downtown retail center that can work for everyone.”
Tom Markl, chief executive of Redmond-based , said he was also disappointed with the postal service's decision. Markl said his company had worked for several months to reach a 10-year lease agreement with the agency on a 5,000-square-foot building Nelson Legacy owns near Trader Joe's.
Markl said his company had already cut the proposed lease rate in half and put in a new 95-space parking lot before the postal service came back and said there was no way it could afford to remain downtown. He declined to provide the value of the proposed lease agreement.
Marchione said he suspects the postal service's decision to close or move thousands of post offices around the country is motivated more by political than financial reasons. The agency has been asking Congress for help with cutting costs and arguing that dramatic changes in the way it operates are necessary to its survival.
“It seems more of a political strategy to get people upset at Congress," Marchione said Wednesday. "I truly believe that's their endgame."
Swanson said that although it's true the postal service is trying to get Congress' attention, declining mail volumes make the agency's need to consolidate its operations necessary even if all its requests were granted.
“We simply don’t need as many facilities or as large facilities as we have currently,” Swanson said.
Whatever the reasons for the move, Markl said he has been surprised at how the postal service's national issues have suddenly become very local.
“This personal experience really brings it home," he said. "It’s a different world.”
Editor's note: This story was updated on Dec. 1 to include new comments from postal service spokesman Ernie Swanson.