BANGOR, Maine — The city’s post office packed up this weekend and moved back downtown. It was scheduled to open today in the former District Court building at the corner of Hammond and Franklin streets.
The downtown post office, which was located in the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building for more than 40 years, closed its lobby at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 29, after its lease with the U.S. General Services Administration expired. It moved temporarily to the Broadway Shopping Center.
The new location was open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday to allow box holders to turn in keys to the old boxes and pick up keys to their newly installed boxes.
Information on what would happen to the old boxes was not available Sunday.
Some box holders said that they had stood in line Sunday morning for an hour to get their new keys.
“I think we all agree this might not have been the best way to do this,” Kim McGowen of Old Town said. “It’s taken me 30 minutes just to get inside the door. It does not seem to be moving efficiently.”
McGowen said she had a post office box in Bangor for business purposes.
The parking lot of the former District Court building was full Sunday morning. Parking spaces on Hammond and Franklin streets, usually empty on Sunday mornings, also were occupied.
Jerry Snow of Brewer leaned on a set of crutches as he stood in line to pick up keys for his 87-year-old father.
“My dad lives in Bangor, but he’s gone in the winter,” Snow, who broke his foot several days ago, said. “He’s gone in the winter, and having a post office box makes it easier for him.”
Many of the more than 50 people in line Sunday said they preferred the Broadway location. Barbara Cardone was an exception.
“My office is just across the street,” she said. “If the post office wasn’t downtown, I probably wouldn’t have a box.”
In September, U.S. Postal Service officials signed a 20-year lease with Penobscot County, which owns the building next to the historic Penobscot County Courthouse.
The postal service will pay the county $74,178 a year for 5,700 square feet of space through July 11, 2015, the lease states. The rent will increase to $85,590 beginning July 12, 2020, and go up to $91,290 on July 12, 2025. The lease will expire on July 11, 2029.
The postal service, which paid for renovations to the former courthouse at 73 Franklin St., agreed to make a one-time payment of $60,000 to the county for the preliminary work such as a traffic study and asbestos removal, the lease states.
The county has spent about $100,000 to renovate the building.
While county officials are delighted the U.S. Postal Service has signed a long-term lease, not everyone who has a post office box welcomes the return to downtown Bangor.
“I like it right here,” Cynthia Oakes of Holden said Saturday morning about the temporary location on Broadway.
Oakes said she and her husband have had their box for 10 years. Moving the box to Holden is a possibility but would mean changing all the stationery for her husband’s business, which also uses the box.
John Yasenchak of Bangor, who also uses his box for personal and business mail, agreed that the shopping center location was more convenient.
“There’s better parking here, and it’s easier to get around,” he said. “It’s been really great here.”
The previous location shared parking space with federal building tenants and was located across busy Harlow Street.
Business hours at the post office will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The lobby will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. 365 days a year.
Improvements at the new site, according to Tom Rizzo, the postal service district communications coordinator for Maine, include:
• 30 convenient, dedicated, on-site parking spaces for customers.
• Four window stations, one of which is handicap-accessible.
• 1,935 boxes with an additional 50 parcel lockers.
• Automatic entrance and lobby doors.
• A customer exit door at the end of the box section to alleviate congestion at the main entrance.
• An enclosed truck platform lift to protect mail from the elements.
• A safer working environment for employees.
In addition to the postal service, the Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross also will rent space in the former courthouse beginning Oct. 15. The Red Cross, which is separate from the organization’s blood collection operation at 900B Hammond St., now is at Target Industrial Circle off outer Hammond Street.
The Red Cross will pay $49,500 a year for 4,500 square feet of space, according to previously published reports. The organization’s lease is for two years.
The Maine Department of Probation pays about $31,000 a year for space in the section of the building that fronts Franklin Street. It has been a tenant for more than a decade.
The county’s new rental income of about $125,000 will not replace the $140,000 in rent the judiciary paid for the space annually. Bangor District Court moved in November 2009 to the Penobscot Judicial Center on Exchange Street, according to Penobscot County administrator William Collins.