Vendor’s Plaza May Not Include Vendors as Parking Garage Plan Adds Post Office

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USPS Real Estate Manager Thomas Pino, St. Thomas Postmaster Robert Allen, St. John Postmistress Tiffany Gumbs and USPS Design and Construction Manager Danne Weir, listen to St. John residents’ concerns at Monday’s town hall meeting.

What started out as plans for a vendors plaza and parking garage across from the Creek in Cruz Bay is becoming more like a Post Office facility and parking garage.

At a Monday evening, June 26, town hall meeting with U.S. Postal Service (USPS) representatives, Keith Richards, assistant to the V.I. governor for special projects said that according to current plans, approximately 1,000 square feet has been designated for vendor space at the facility.

“There is a very limited vending opportunity,” he said. “We are in discussions with Property and Procurement, and our full intention is to provide space for vendors at the old Post Office location.”

Plans Still Preliminary
Preliminary plans unveiled at the meeting showed approximately 6,500 square feet of interior space, all on the first floor, designated for the Post Office, along with 16 parking spaces on the first floor, 22 spaces on the second floor and 50 spaces on the third floor.

The parking garage will be a pay-to-park facility, and whether the Post Office will reserve short-term free parking spaces for its customers was the subject of some debate between officials.

“First level short-term parking will be reserved for people doing business at the Post Office, and hopefully these spaces turn over quickly,” said Richards. “Everything will be paid parking.”

USPS real estate manager Thomas Pino objected to Richards’ statement that customers will have to pay to park while doing Post Office business.

“That is not paid parking,” said Pino. “There will be no fee charged to the public. We will work that out later.”

The USPS can lease parking spaces for its customers to use for free, said Richards.

Another issue being worked out is the length of the lease, said Pino.

A loading bay in the preliminary design that does not provide enough space for large trucks delivering parcels from St. Thomas to turn around within the garage will cause delivery trucks to have to back in to the facility off of the main thoroughfare that runs through town by the waterfront.

“The lot is not conducive to turning around,” said Peter Roka of Cape Associates who is designing the facility. “It’s a very restrictive lot. It’s less than 80 feet wide in there.”

Residents expressed concerns about the safety of trucks backing into the loading bay from a main road.

“We would prefer to lose parking spaces and have people turn around safely,” said resident Ronnie Jones.

New Loading Bay Safer
“The loading dock itself is completely off the street,” said Pino. “We back into loading bays off a main thoroughfare in Manhattan.”

The loading and unloading procedure at the new facility will be safer than the process at the current facility, said Dane Weir, USPS manager of design and construction.

“Currently, as trucks load, they are halfway out in the street,” he said. “If it’s safe and not going to impact our level of service, I would go forward,” said USPS Caribbean District Manager Priscilla Maney.

Some residents stressed the importance of ensuring the new facility can accommodate the rate of growth on St. John.

“Let’s keep a very open mind, and let’s do it the right way,” said one resident. “The island’s population is not going to go down. We have to do this right.”

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The St. John U.S. Post Office, above, is in drastic need of expansion and replacement to meet the growing needs of the island.

Ten Years Growth
“Space is limited, and I see no provisions for future expansion,” said St. John resident B.J. Harris.

The USPS traditionally accounts for five years of growth when designing a new facility, according to Maney.

“Traditionally, the Post Office wants us to look out five years,” she said. “With this concept, we looked out 10 years. It’s a huge investment, and I can’t make this investment without considering growth.”

Mail delivery service, which is sometimes hindered by a lack of space at St. John’s current Post Office, may be improved with the opening of the new facility according to USPS officials.

“It was a space issue, especially during Christmas, when customers who have received parcel notices are not picking up packages so they can surprise their kids later,” said St. John Postmistress Tiffany Gumbs. “I’ve had to call St. Thomas and say, ‘please don’t send us anymore parcels. I will call you when we have space.’”

“When we build the new facility, we will not have space constraints,” said Maney.

St. John resident Margie Labrenz asked whether the new facility would focus on self-service, with the implementation of machines found in many stateside Post Offices that allow customers to weigh and buy postage for parcels.

“I would like to say yes, but I’d have to feel comfortable that enough people would use it,” said Maney.

There are no plans for a self-service machine to be put into the new facility at this time, but it can be added later, according to Maney.

Public hearings will be held to allow for input on the design of the parking garage and Post Office, according to Richards.

“You will have input on design issues,” he said. “After that, the design firm will go full blast.”

Once the plans are completed and approved, Richards said he expects the project to completed in approximately 12 months.