The United States Postal Service is actively searching for a location to put a 2,000-square-foot retail post office in Bethesda, although the man in charge of the site selection process isn’t sure where and is asking residents to suggest potential storefronts.
Rick Hancock, a real estate specialist with the financially struggling agency, said at a public meeting on Wednesday that Bethesda has proven to have enough customer volume to merit a second post office. A year ago, the USPS closed down two post offices in downtown Bethesda and moved to a controversial location near Bradley Boulevard.
Hancock said the decision to open a second post office in Bethesda during a time when it’s much more common for the USPS to close down branches is not about the difficulty of finding parking at the 6900 Wisconsin Ave. location.
Residents and Rep. Chris Van Hollen have called on the Postal Service to relocate from that location because of the lack of convenient parking.
Joan Kleinman, Van Hollen’s district director, questioned why Postal Service officials promised many of the same things in a July 2011 meeting but the USPS never followed through.
“It is different. That was a very complex situation with a lot of moving parts,” Hancock said. “This one is simple, very focused: 2,000 square feet of retail. My only worry, for a lack of a better term, is where.”
Hancock said the Postal Service has approved a second post office location. If no suitable location is found, he said the USPS and its real estate broker, CBRE, will continue to look for one.
Hancock will post an official collection of possible sites at the 6900 Wisconsin post office and let people know through county government. There will be a commenting period and a site review committee.
Hancock said he was not sure if the second post office would be limited to the 20816 zip code, west of River Road and south of Goldsboro Road, an area removed from downtown with seemingly fewer options. The Postal Service had previously said it was looking for a location in that zip code and that the Retail Post Office would not have P.O. boxes.
Hancock said it would have P.O. boxes and that “it is our goal,” to have parking.
The property must be able to hold a Retail Post Office, have good customer access and space for a mail truck to back up and deliver bulk mail. Hancock said a location with a loading dock, while not necessary, would be preferable.
A Retail Post Office contains over-the-counter services, more limited than the all encompassing mail transfer station that the USPS closed down last year at 7100 Arlington Rd. Hancock said the USPS had to sell that property because of its dire financial situation.
But he attempted to assure a skeptical crowd of residents that a second Bethesda post office was in fact going to happen.
“They say, ‘Go forth Rick,’” Hancock said, “and Rick goes forth.”