A representative of the U.S. Postal Service denied Friday that it is in negotiations for a permanent post office location on Forest Street in New Canaan.
"We are not even close to putting a pen on paper at this point," postal service spokesman Maureen Marion said. "There's absolutely no permanent location yet in town. We are still in the looking phase."
The statement contradicts what sources said this week about a potential move to 21 Forest St., where a three-story mixed-use building is under construction.
First Selectman Robert Mallozzi said Thursday that the post office was "very close to signing" a lease for a permanent home. "They're looking at a piece of property on Forest Street that's being built," he said.
The "only hold-up" preventing the deal, Mallozzi said, was a postal service request to park a 30-foot vehicle on the site "once construction allows that to happen." The building is scheduled to be completed next summer.
A source familiar with the negotiations said the property owner likely cannot physically house a 30-foot trailer on the site and that the post office has until Aug. 29 to respond to the developer's letter of intent.
The owner of the Forest Street space -- Chris Gatto, of Gatto Development -- did not return calls for comment.
Marion declined to discuss specific locations the postal service has considered, adding that officials have to be "very cautious" to make sure a potential new site can accommodate the post office.
"The postal service has some very specific requirements for what we need and for what we are looking for in a facility and we need to be sure, before we make a commitment to any site, that this is a location that will work for us for a long time," she said.
"But we are definitely looking. We are working very hard to find the right location that's going to serve this community for the next generation. There's no doubt about that."
Some of the requirements include the ability to leave the lobby open 24 hours a day, appropriate parking spaces for customers and post office vehicles, water and electricity availability as well as insurance compliance.
The 21 Forest St. development will house retail spaces on the first floor, living units on the second and third floors and an underground parking lot.
Since January, when it left its location of more than 50 years on Pine Street, the post office has been operating at a temporary space at 90 Main St. through a month-to-month lease. The interim facility is much smaller than the old location and does not have a parking lot.
"The post office, rightfully so, wants to leave that Main Street location as soon as it can," Mallozzi said. Read Full Article
After the move from Pine Street, the post office offered retail services from a mobile truck for a few weeks until the Main Street site was being set up. Marion indicated the postal service is not willing to move back to a trailer.
"As it stands right now, we have a spot to be and hopefully we won't have to make another move for another reason," she said.
Marion added that the Main Street location was "an extraordinary investment," noting that it offers all postal services and that the lobby is open 24 hours a day.
A month ago, another spokesman said the postal service was "a lot closer" to finding a new permanent location in town. "We're hoping to make an announcement within the next month," Christine Dugas said July 21.
Whether a deal is imminent or not, Mallozzi said the negotiations are a sign that the postal service is committed to staying in New Canaan.
"It's a positive development," he said. "(Postal service officials) were very good at keeping me on the loop almost every two weeks with the progress they were making so I'm hopeful this is going to work out."
firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson