South Queen Street site likely option in Dover Post Office relocation plan

DOVER — It appears as if the Dover Post Office, which has historically had a presence in the downtown corridor, will remain near the heart of the city.

The former Chesapeake Utilities property at 350 S. Queen St. looks to be the only remaining option for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to use in relocating its Dover Post Office.

The second of its two potential sites — the old Value City department store at Bay Court Plaza off Bay Road — has been undergoing renovations for a new Dollar General store as well as other business tenants.

USPS officials were not available for comment Monday on an impending move. Ray Daiutolo Sr., a spokesman for the USPS, said last week, “As I understand it, we are considering our options and no final decision has been made yet.”

Officials in September announced the South Queen Street and Bay Road locations as their two options.
A Dover city official did say USPS officials have been conducting some studies at the South Queen Street location.
A move would end the postal service’s 50-year plus tenure at its current building at 55 Loockerman Plaza, where its operations are contained within a building that was constructed in 1964.

Mayor Robin Christiansen said the city has not been officially notified of the post office’s decision to relocate to South Queen Street, adjacent to the Dover Police Department headquarters, but he has heard plenty of rumblings around town.

“We have heard a rumor to that effect, but there is nothing official,” Mayor Christiansen said. “We kind of figured they were zeroing in on a site, but we know they had two sites considered. My hope is that it’s in downtown. Officially, we haven’t heard anything and are waiting for an official announcement.”

Mayor Christiansen said he believes the city will be best served by moving the post office somewhere in the downtown area, where it has remained during four different location shifts through the years.

“Traditionally my preference as an individual and in a historical sense is to continue to have a post office presence in the downtown area,” the mayor said. “That way it can continue to be an economic driver by bringing people into the area with the plan to make it convenient for them to do business there and meet their needs.”

Two preferred options
Mr. Daiutolo, who works at USPS corporate communications, said the city informed the South Jersey District earlier last year that it wasn’t going to renew their lease when it expires in March 2020 on the property at the current location.

That sent the wheels spinning into motion for the USPS to find a new home for the Dover Post Office.
“We have identified two potential options that are now under review – 350 South Queen Street (combined retail and carrier operations) and two other sites for a split setup, retail at 50 North DuPont Highway and carrier operations at 650 South Bay Road,” Mr. Daiutolo said last September. “We are moving forward with the planning process and additional due diligence on the preferred options.”

It appears as if the split setup, involving carrier operations at the former Value City department store at Bay Court Plaza and a retail site at Capital Station, a shopping and restaurant complex which is being built at the site of the former Playtex plant at the intersection of U.S. 13 and Division Street, will not be pursued.

Dover City Planner Dave Hugg confirmed last week that a fourth Dollar Tree discount store will be moving into a portion of the long-vacant Value City, with other sections remaining available for rent from other potential tenants.

“Part of the old Value City building is going to be a Dollar Tree discount store,” he said. “That’s what the major remodeling going on right now is for. They are redoing the facade and they’ll make the whole front of the building look somewhat consistent now. They’re working on a new roof, landscaping and site work as well.”
That would appear to leave the site at 350 South Queen Street as the only remaining option for the future Dover Post Office location.

Richard Hancock, a real estate specialist with the USPS, explained the primary reason why the post office was seeking to relocate at a Dover City Council meeting on June 11, 2018.

“The city owns the property,” Mr. Hancock said. “We own the building. The lease expires (in March 2020). The city wants to do something else with the property.
“We’re working with the city right now on different options together. This is a team. We’re looking for the best interests.”

Keeping it close?
Mr. Hancock said the USPS was orginally considering numerous options for the future of post office operations in Dover.
“We always stay as close to where we’ve been (location-wise) as operationally and economically feasible,” said Mr. Hancock. “The downtown location that we’re currently in we’ve been there for over 50 years.

“We want to find something that’s relatively close, but we always look at how do we get our people in and out? Where’s the parking? Where’s the location? It’s a real-estate scenario.”
When the post office settled into the current facility on city-owned land in 1964, the mayor said it was built to last five decades, which have now passed.

One thing Mr. Hancock made clear at that city council meeting last year, the USPS would have no role in the future of the old post office location once it is vacated.

“We do own the building and just like any building that’s on a ground lease when the ground lease is over, the building stays,” he said. “We’re not going to pick it up. We could technically pick it up, but we’re not going to pick up the building and move it.

“Whatever we need from it, we own. The building itself does not have value because we don’t control the land.”
That’s the primary reason why City Councilman Fred Neil said the USPS and city of Dover could both benefit from the post office relocation.

“I would prefer a downtown location to draw people to the revitalized area we are creating, which the post office would be a significant part,” Mr. Neil said.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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