Friday, March 14, 2008

265 Main Street

The Main Street post office opened for business on September 2, 1916. The city's four wards met at a point in the middle of the street directly in front of the post office, so it literally was at the center of town.

This week the News-Times reported that the USPS is considering whether to close the downtown post office. This doesn't really come as a surprise, since all mail processing operations were moved to the Backus Avenue facility over a year ago. The Main Street location now serves mostly as a retail facility, selling stamps, accepting packages and letters, and providing over 800 post office boxes. It still serves a useful function, say business owners and residents of the downtown area, who would incur the added expense of driving to the Backus Avenue branch. The possibility of opening a new, smaller facility at an alternate location, still convenient to downtown, has not been ruled out, but the 92-year-old building on Main Street probably won't figure into those plans unless we give the USPS a reason to include it. There's no reason that the newer, smaller facility couldn't be included in a plan for renovating the building for multiple uses. A New England town without a downtown post office is not really a town.

Several people are already putting forth ideas for new uses for the building, which would require extensive interior renovations in any case. I think this might be just the opportunity we've been waiting for to begin a revitalization project similar to Norwalk's efforts in its SoNo district. The building is centrally located, within walking distance of both the HART pulse point and the Metro-North train station. We need a coalition of citizens to start making plans, and if things don't work out with this particular building, then they can also begin looking at other possibilities near the downtown center. Whatever we do, please let's not allow the building to get snapped up by the usual developers who will put it to the usual uses. The last thing downtown Danbury needs is another dormitory.

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