Georgetown post office. Photo by joseph a.

The Postal Service wants to convert a single-use post office into mixed-

use development in Georgetown. They should extend that idea to their Tenleytown branch as well.

Our society has been shifting communication towards electronic media such as email, relying more on parcel services such as FedEx and UPS. That has created challenges for the Postal Service. This also creates an opportunity, however, to reuse USPS facilities that are no longer necessary because of reduced demand for mail service.

This past summer, the Postal Service announced that it is considering closing nearly seven hundred post offices nationwide. Instead of closing their Georgetown office, the Postal Service wants to sell its valuable property on 31st Street while still maintaining operations on the first floor of the two-story building. EastBanc plans to convert the basement and second floors of the Post Office building into condos, and later hopes to build town homes on what is currently a surface parking lot next to the historic stone building.

This proposal is very sensible for an agency that is struggling with declining customer demand. It lets the Postal Service maintain a branch in the community while leveraging its valuable real estate to gain much needed revenue.

The Georgetown location isn’t the only opportunity for the Postal Service to partner with developers to rebuild its facilities and better utilize its property in walkable areas. Redeveloping the Friendship Station post office at 4005 Wisconsin Avenue, which is actually in Tenleytown, would greatly enhance Smart Growth along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor. The current Post Office consists of a surface parking lot and a one-story building that has a largely walled-off front along Wisconsin Avenue.

The buildings surrounding this post office on Wisconsin Avenue are moderately dense. Directly north on Wisconsin Avenue is a five-story residential building. Across the street and a bit north is a garish postmodern office building set back from the street and mostly walled off to surrounding pedestrian traffic. Immediately across the street on the western side of Wisconsin Avenue from the post office is a five-story office building with retail on the first floor. Fannie Mae’s suburban-style headquarters and Sidwell Friends school are located to the south.

Left: area around the post office from Bing Maps.

Right: The post office. Image from Google Street View.

As with the Georgetown Post Office, USPS should seek a private developer for this facility that would allow the Postal Service to better utilize a valuable property that is just slightly over a half-mile from the Tenley metro station. A new residential building could be built that eliminates the surface parking lot on the north side of the parcel while maintaining the presence of the Post Office on the first floor of the new mixed-use property. Such creative partnerships are being used to rebuild the fire station in Southwest and potentially provide new police and fire stations in the West End.

The proposed Giant project and a Safeway in Tenley that actually utilizes the great potential of two nearby metro stations will significantly improve the Wisconsin Avenue corridor. Providing new housing for the neighborhood while maintaining the presence of this Post Office will also greatly enhance Tenleytown.