It’s not your typical fixer-upper.
Walls are crumbling. Ceilings have gaping holes. Once-shiny brass fixtures hide under coats of paint. Bathrooms look like they have not been used–or cleaned–since the Wilson Administration, when the Morristown Post Office opened.
Still, town officials saw possibilities when they toured the place on Friday.
“I’m excited about the prospect of restoring this magnificent, sadly neglected facility,” said Morristown Administrator Jillian Barrick.
The Postal Service wants to sell the century-old building, which is virtually empty, and move its two-person retail operation to a smaller space within walking distance of the historic Morristown Green.
A handful of places within a few blocks of the Green might suffice, according to CBRE realty broker Geoffrey Schuber, who said Postal Officials plan to take a look very soon. In the meantime, he said he has shown the Post Office to almost a dozen potential buyers, including town officials.
Bidding could start within a week or two, Schuber said. The facility contains about 17,000 square feet of space, he said, and comes with eight parking spaces. The Postal Service could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Mayor Tim Dougherty won’t say if he envisions the Post Office becoming the next town hall, an obvious use. So far he only has expressed interest in preserving the Post Office as a “centerpiece” of the downtown.
Dougherty has estimated it will take $2 million to renovate the building, which lacks central air conditioning. He has said he would be willing to set aside 1,500 square feet for the Postal Service to stay there.
“It’s in very terrible shape,” Morristown Postmaster Janice Peters conceded at a town meeting last fall. Most of the area’s postal services are provided from a facility on busy Ridgedale Avenue in Morris Township.
Plans to shutter the Morristown Post Office in 2012 brought howls of protest, and it got a reprieve.
Town officials brought appraiser William Yirce from the Glen Rock firm of McNerney and Associates with them on Friday to help prepare a potential bid. Town Attorney Vij Pawar also took the tour.
The tax-exempt half-acre property near the Morristown Green on Morris Street is zoned for “public purposes,” and would require a zoning variance for any commercial use, according to town Planner Phil Abramson.
Any exterior changes also could require another layer of approvals. Although a postal official has asserted the Post Office is not on the federal historic register, a plaque on the building says it’s on both the federal and state registers.
Restoration grants may be available from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund, Abramson said.
“It’s a central, easily walkable location from all of Morristown’s neighborhoods,” the planner said. “The community grew up around this building. So it makes sense to maintain it’s general purpose.”