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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Council misses an opportunity on post office

The Hendersonville City Council inexplicably stepped back from the batter’s box when it had the opportunity to take a couple of swings at an important development decision.

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On Thursday night, the man who will make the recommendation on a new location and four other high-ranking U.S. Postal Service officials were seated in the council chambers at City Hall, inviting the public and the council to comment and ask questions about the decision-making process.
The postal service plans to leave its current city home at 427 Fifth Avenue West by the fall of 2017. It’s asking the public for ideas, suggestions and input. The postal service is asking, it should be noted, because Congress requires it to.
The real estate specialist, Richard Hancock, made it clear Thursday night that, whatever the input from the public, the post office would make the decision based on economics, space needs and traffic considerations. In other words, it's a business decision, as it should have. It’s looking to downsize from 20,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet because many of the functions that have been done on Fifth Avenue have been shifted either to the annex or out of town.
“Parking is crucial,” Hancock said. “It is a requirement. We’re looking for somewhere in the vicinity of 40 to 45 parking spaces and that’s very difficult to do. We’re also looking at flow — how do you get in and out.”
We’re assuming that any option the postal service considers will have advantages over the existing building, which has an odd traffic configuration and hazardous parking lot. Where the council missed an opportunity was that it could have urged Hancock to stay close to Main Street when he looks for the space. The post office doesn’t want to build. It plans to lease and, reading between the lines, Hancock seems to be hunting for a high-profile space.

Mayor Barbara Volk and council members have been casting about for years for a way to encourage revitalization of the Historic Seventh Avenue District. A post office could be just the catalyst to do that. The post office would draw hundreds of visits a week to Seventh Avenue, a street that many local residents avoid now.

Yet, instead of capitalizing on the chance to promote Seventh Avenue, the mayor dismissed Hancock and a handful of Hendersonville residents to a conference room.
Council members could have made the point that Seventh Avenue would be a good fit. Or in the alternative how about offering the Grey Hosiery Mill property to a developer who would bulldoze the mill and build the post office an attractive new place against a long-term lease.
It’s not too late for the council to make that opinion known. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service has invited all local post office users to make their thoughts and ideas known. Hancock is taking comments for the next 30 days. Yes, he gives a snail mail address. Here it is:
Richard Hancock
Real Estate Specialist
U.S. Postal Service
PO Box 27497
Greensboro, NC 27498-1103
In the age of email, text messaging, FedEx and Amazon delivery by drone we too often mock the post office for its seemingly old ways. But it’s still important to our town, as it is to the U.S., because only the post office is responsible for universal delivery. In Hendersonville, it could be a great partner, too, in helping to revitalize an area that used to be a major business hub.