Atlantic City post office prepares to make last delivery
(Published: Wednesday, December 17, 2008)
ATLANTIC CITY - After a decade of debate and delays, an agreement to demolish Atlantic City's 70-year-old post office building has finally been signed, sealed and delivered.
A state development agency Tuesday approved plans to raze the imposing landmark to make room for casino development and a road project to relieve a bottleneck in the center of town.
The vote by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority ends a long-running saga to tear down the antiquated post office for the widening of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Atlantic and Pacific avenues.
The post office plans to leave the building by the end of December and will relocate its retail and distribution operations to two different sites within the city, according to Nancy Wattson, the authority's chief financial officer.
The postal retail center will move into a new office complex anchored by Sun National Bank at the corner of Atlantic and Indiana avenues. There, customers will buy stamps and pick up or drop off their mail and packages.
Distribution operations for the post office will relocate to the former IGA supermarket site at the foot of Route 30, Wattson said. The distribution center will serve as a base for collecting, sorting and delivering the mail.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which is funded by Atlantic City's gaming industry, paid $7 million for the post office building through a $10 million agreement with casino operator Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. The deal also includes funding to demolish the building and expand Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Demolition of the post office would finally create the room to widen the narrow, congested stretch of Martin Luther King Boulevard between Atlantic and Pacific avenues for two lanes of traffic in both directions. Other sections of the boulevard have already been turned into a four-lane corridor linking the downtown area with the Route 30 entryway.
Wattson said the CRDA has contractors on standby to tear down the post office before the widening work begins. The authority expects to award the road contract in early spring.
Thomas D. Carver, the CRDA's executive director, said the road widening is part of a larger development strategy to revitalize the Atlantic Avenue business district.
"We hope to see the ultimate redevelopment of that part of Atlantic Avenue into an attractive place," Carver said. "Frankly, I think it will be a major improvement in that area of the city."
Pinnacle Entertainment, meanwhile, will be given the post office site if it undertakes a retail-entertainment project approved by the CRDA. Pinnacle would also have the option of buying the property if it doesn't build one of those projects, Wattson said.
Pinnacle wants to redevelop the site of the old Sands Casino Hotel, across the street from the post office, into a $1.5 billion to $2 billion megaresort but has been stalled by the recession and global credit crisis.
The Sands, before it was bought by Pinnacle and imploded in October 2007, wanted to use the post office site for hotel expansion and a new parking garage. It lacked the money to complete the plans, giving the post office a reprieve from the wrecking ball and sparking debate over whether the building should be knocked down or preserved.
Wattson said the agreement approved Tuesday by the CRDA's board seals the post office's fate. It will be demolished, even if Pinnacle is unable to build its proposed casino, she noted.