Future of downtown Columbia post office in doubt

Downtown Columbia may soon be without a post office. According to a U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman, the future of the post office in the American City Building is in doubt.

"We are having issues with the lease renewal," said Yvette Singh, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore district of the USPS.


According to Singh, options for alternative locations are scheduled to be discussed at a public meeting set for 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the Columbia Main Post Office, 6801 Oak Hall Lane.

John DeWolf, senior vice president of Howard Hughes Corp., which owns the building, said the company would work with the USPS if they want to remain in the building.


"There ought to be a post office in downtown Columbia," DeWolf said. "We are at the mercy of them right now."

The post office's lease expires May 31, 2014.

If an agreement between the USPS and Howard Hughes can not be reached, the post office could become the latest tenant to leave the building, located across from the Columbia mall on Little Patuxent Parkway.

Earlier this year, Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit founded by Jim Rouse, moved into four floors at 70 Corporate Center, the former home of the Ryland Group.

The Ryland Group building, as it is known, was acquired by Howard Hughes in August 2012.

According to a tenant listing at the American City Building, the only occupants are four first-floor tenants — the post office, the Columbia Archives, the Artists' Gallery and Lakeside Deli & Cafe — and one tenant on the third floor.

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DeWolf said Howard Hughes has long-term plans to renovate the building, which would include constructing a new "skin" or exterior.

"It's an old building that needs substantial reinvestment," DeWolf said.


DeWolf said a renovation would only take place after Howard Hughes landed a "signature" tenant for the space, which he said would occupy most, if not all, of the upstairs space for the nine-story building.

"We have been hard at work but lightning has to strike a little," he said.

DeWolf said Howard Hughes has explored demolishing the building and constructing residential units, but decided against it.

Currently, Howard Hughes is in the process of redeveloping the former Rouse Co. building, which neighbors the American City Building, into a Whole Foods. Howard Hughes and the Columbia Association have signed an 11-year lease for the basement of the building. CA plans to build a fitness club in the space.

Both projects are expected to be completed in September of 2014.