With the historic downtown post office on the auction block, a prime use would be a new public-safety building. The past two decades city leaders have struggled with various sites throughout Palo Alto searching for a location for a new police headquarters, and always coming up short. This time an existing public facility, located in the downtown, a stone's throw from City Hall, and immediately adjacent to other City-owned sites is finally available.
The downtown post office is not only identified with Palo Alto's historic architecture, but has ample interior headroom to allow another level to be built over the mail-sorting floor, with basement space and adjacent parking for building expansion. The adjacent parking lot could become a new parking structure servicing police vehicles, and nearby lots used by the public and visitors.
Palo Alto has a rich history of reclaiming our historic public buildings. Avenidas once housed Palo Alto's police headquarters, and the Roth Building is soon to become the Palo Alto History Museum.
Further, if the post office were to be auctioned, developer Chop Keenan estimates it would sell for approximately $6M — a relative bargain for parcels in the downtown.
But city leaders hold all the cards. The underlying zoning for the post office remains a public facility, and can't be rezoned without City Council initiation. The City Council should authorize the city manager to conduct a feasibility study to determine if a badly needed public-safety building could work at the downtown post office location.
Lee I. Lippert, AIA, architect