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Officials meet to discuss future of downtown Norwich post office

By Claire Bessette

Publication: theday.com

Published January 30. 2013 6:00PM   Updated January 30. 2013 11:46PM

Norwich — A U.S. Postal Service representative told city officials Wednesday that if the historic Main Street post office building is sold, the service would work with Otis Library to open a new retail postal station there.

The postal service first announced two years ago that it planned to sell the building and move its retail Norwich Post Office to the current distribution center on Salem Turnpike near the Bozrah town line. City officials have objected to that plan, insisting that a downtown post office was necessary to serve businesses and residents in the center of the city.

The CBRE/New England real estate firm put up its "for sale" sign on the post office lawn at the end of December, prompting city officials to ask for a meeting to repeat their case for keeping it open.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who hosted the meeting at his office at the opposite end of Main Street, said postal service representative Tatiana Roy agreed to explore placing a smaller post office retail station at the library, located a short distance across Main Street from the current post office. The Norwich post office still would move to the distribution center, Courtney said.

Mayor Peter Nystrom, who did not attend Wednesday's meeting but participated by telephone, said he invited Otis Library Executive Director Robert Farwell to the meeting and suggested the library become the host of a new retail station.

"They identified the need to keep a downtown post office," Nystrom said. "The market needs it and wants it, which is what I always said two years ago. I made it very clear that my preference is that it be at the library to create some revenue for them."

Nystrom also suggested a possible revenue source for the post office at its current location. The building is 22,000 square feet, and the post office is using only 2,000 square feet. Nystrom suggested the post office lease space to outside entities and offered the city's help in finding potential tenants.

City officials learned at the meeting that the building would be offered for $550,000, but historic preservation restrictions — including a mandate to preserve the lobby mural — could make marketing difficult.

The building was still not listed on CBRE/New England's website Wednesday evening. Roy told Norwich officials that the postal service would be more active in marketing the building.

"Nothing is going to change until they find a buyer," Courtney said, "and if they go forward with the sale, they still have a retail presence in downtown Norwich, a place that people in town can rely on."

c.bessette@theday.com

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