Landmark post office canceled in Sacramento shift

Published: Saturday, Jul. 21, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3B

For customers and staff alike, it was time to say goodbye Friday to Sacramento's historic downtown post office.

It was a bitter farewell for some, like customer Cynthia Cobb, who expressed a deep appreciation for the Depression-era building's terra cotta exterior and grand interior.

"It's the most beautiful post office I've ever been to," she said.

For others, the branch office's move from Eighth and I streets to the Westfield Downtown Plaza – starting Monday – couldn't come too soon.

"Westfield will be a better location," said another patron, Molly Wright.

Patrons have long complained about the current location's airport-style security. After 9/11, the federal building where the post office is housed installed metal detectors and hired security guards.

"We lost a good 40 to 50 percent of our customer base because of the security," said Ralph Petty, U.S. Postal Service acting marketing manager for the Sacramento district.

But that's only one reason the Postal Service is bidding farewell to its 80-year-old home – the cash-strapped agency is also looking to save some money.

"We're getting in here cheaper," Petty said of the new Westfield storefront.

On Friday, post office box customers lined up to collect their new keys, but were turned away by post office staff. Many complained the transition was anything but smooth.

The ornate building is a fixture of the downtown landscape. Nostalgia for the past was what kept Cobb coming back, but she also liked going through security. "At least I know I'm safe," she said.

The Westfield location will feature longer hours, validated parking and no airport-style security. The mall's general manager, Raelene Trumm, welcomed the move.

"We see it as a strong addition to Westfield Downtown Plaza," she said.

But with the future of Downtown Plaza still uncertain, some have questioned the wisdom of the move. The mall has seen its retailers and client base dwindle in recent years. Last December, rumors swirled that the mall's owner, Australia-based Westfield, was close to selling the property.

Petty downplayed those concerns and said the move was a "win-win" for both parties. The new branch will be next to the Golden 1 Credit Union, across from the main rotunda on the first floor.

State worker Cynthia Evans of North Highlands is looking forward to the grand opening. She called Westfield the "perfect location," pointing to nearby shops and a credit union that she frequents.

U.S. Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz echoed her sentiment. "We generate a lot of foot traffic; retailers too," Ruiz said. "It's a symbiotic relationship, absolutely win-win."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Richard Chang



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