DARIEN – The downtown branch of the Post Office is expected to relocate to Goodwives Shopping Center in the next months to make way for a redevelopment of the location by Baywater Properties, but missed rent payments and fears that the postal service will impede the development have pushed Baywater to threaten eviction on social media.
Baywater Properties has owned the current location since 2007, and the United States Postal Service has been a tenant there since the 1950s.
For the last 17 years, Baywater Properties has planned turning the properties into a mixed-use center incorporating retail, offices and luxury residences.
David Genovese, the developer, said the plan was to find a temporary location for the existing tenants and eventually move them back into the plaza. All parties agreed.
But two years ago, Genovese said, the Post Office warned him that relocating there and back would not be possible. He said that post office officials had found a Stop and Shop-anchored shopping center where they had planned to relocate to instead.
“Everything was fine,” Genovese explained. “But then they basically had just failed to execute the lease that they negotiated, and their lease with us expired at the end of September. And they can’t give us a sense of timing for when they will relocate.”
Genovese said that Baywater Properties had no issues leasing the space to the post office until then. He added that tensions had been especially high this past month.
“To add insult to injury, they’re not paying rent in the current location,” he said. “And we just said, ‘look, enough is enough.’”
Genovese said that he’d been working to relocate 25 tenants, but the post office was the only one causing an issue.
Genovese said he was aware that the community valued their local post office, but wanted the public to understand that the developers have done everything they could to relocate the office efficiently.
“We can’t control the post office’s behavior. We can’t make them sign a lease. We can’t build the space for them. We can’t move them,” Genovese said. “And they have just absolutely failed to manage this situation and it’s incredibly frustrating.”
Kurtis Bullard, a real estate specialist for the Post Office, said that he understands the developers’ frustrations, but said that given the size of the office’s operation, relocating is not always an option.
Bullard said that Baywater Properties offered the office a temporary space, but said the location was too small and they couldn’t make it work.
Instead, Bullard said, they found a space at the Goodwives Shopping Center. He said that postal officials are nearly done drafting a lease with the plaza, but probably will not be able to move in for another few months.
“Of course, they have to do what’s in their best interest. And I understand that,” Bullard said. “And we’re really proceeding forward as quickly as possible.”
As for the missing rent, Bullard said that the United States Postal Service plans out their payments according to the lease length. Because the previous lease ended on Sept. 30, the funds are still under approval.
“We can’t just not pay,” Bullard said. “So we’re working on all that internally.”
Bullard explained that he will request lease payments for the next few months, until the office moves to the Goodwives Shopping Center.
He said that personally, he had a positive relationship with Baywater Properties until now. But because the post office is short-staffed, Bullard said they have been unable to effectively communicate with the developers.
Bullard also explained that the post office was not able to relocate multiple times as other businesses can.
“[The developers] say, ‘you want to move over here for two years, set everything up, and then start to break it down and transition back.’ That’s not what we’re in the business to do. We’re in the business of the mail,” Bullard said.