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Date published: 2/8/2013
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Twenty-five years ago, the town of Culpeper did everything in its power to keep the post office from moving out of town.
Its loss, officials contended, would be a devastating blow to a downtown then in a fragile state of revitalization.
Now, with the downtown area prospering, the Town Council is trying its best to broker that same post office out of town.
The reason, in great part, is the opening of the renovated State Theatre scheduled for the first week in May. If the crowds come as anticipated, parking--or the lack thereof--will be a significant problem.
Thursday night town planner Patrick Mulhern told council members at its winter retreat that he has approached a private developer who is now "crunching the numbers" to see if his unnamed company can buy the post office building in the 200 block of South Main Street, build another facility on the outskirts of town and make money in the process.
He said that postal officials have been approached and are willing to sell, but only if the buyer finds another suitable site and builds a new facility.
Mulhern stressed that right now this is a private-private deal but admitted that if the numbers didn't crunch the developer might ask the Town Council to "put a little skin in the game."
The town planner said that he envisioned a two-tier parking lot with a plaza --likely commercial--on top and an open plaza at the bottom. To make the venture profitable, however, he said that the developer might want a four-story facility.
Vice mayor Billy Yowell said he thought this was the time to try to make a deal.
"[The post office] is looking to sell some of its facilities," he said, adding that moving the post office to the outskirts of town would not only upscale the area but also move related truck traffic from the downtown.
Mulhern said that the plan was for the post office to keep "a small presence in town" for customer convenience.
Public works director Jim Hoy told the council that demolishing the old police station on Cameron Street could be much more costly than renovating it.
He said that almost $100,000 has already been spent to gut the cinder block and estimated that completely demolishing it could cost as much as $750,000.