Gramor says it wanted post office to stay but new demands from the postal service were not reasonable

PMG FILE PHOTO - The West Linn Post Office will remain at its current location through December. The United States Postal Service has narrowed in on two possible spots for relocating the West Linn Post Office—the former Albertson's site and Wanker's corner—a real estate representative from USPS told the West Linn community at an informational meeting Tuesday, June 25 at City Hall.

Community members packed the council chambers Tuesday night to learn about the fate of the post office, voice their opinions and ask questions of the postall service.

Greg Shelton, USPS's real estate representative, also said the post office's lease at its current location had been extended an additional two months, from the end of October to the end of December. After that, retail operations of the West Linn Post Office will move to the Gladstone Post Office, while West Linn mail carriers will operate out of Wilsonville.

USPS will stick with the Gladstone-Wilsonville set up for West Linn mail until a permanent home for the post office opens.

Shelton said that if USPS finds an existing building for the post office to move into, the moving process would take nine months to a year, but if the post office requires construction of a new building, that process would take a year and a half.

The postal service considered about a dozen locations in West Linn for moving the post office but settled on the two leading possibilities because the others were too small or in potential flood zones. Though, Shelton said, no decisions would be made for another 30 days, in which community members are welcome to send Shelton more comments. At the end of the 30 days, Shelton said he will make a recommendation to a vice president in the postal service about what should be done with the West Linn post office.

Talks between USPS and its current landlord, Gramor Development, about keeping the post office in the West Linn Central Village began in February 2017, a year and a half before the post office's lease expired, but those talks lead nowhere, Barry Cain, President of Gramor, said at the meeting.

"We wanted a small increase (in rent) and then we were given a brand new lease from the post office with a whole litany of new terms," Cain said. "One term was that at the end of the lease, they could hold over indefinitely. We could never terminate the lease. They could stay there as long as they want to and we said, 'No, we can't do that.'"

PMG FILE PHOTO - The West Linn Post Office will remain at its current location through December. According to Cain, the postal service refused to budge with their new demands for the lease and then, in the middle of talks, hit Gramor with another new lease agreement with even more terms. Cain said Gramor likes having the post office in the Central Village and wanted to find a way to keep it there, but negotiating with USPS became impossible.

"So, we finally started thinking 'Well shoot, maybe we should just do something else.' We've always wanted to improve parking there because it's a little tough," Cain said.

Gramor then approached Market of Choice about remodeling the store and expanding the parking lot. The developers and the grocery store reached an agreement and work on the store and its parking lot are set to begin next January.

Shelton said that if Gramor had worked with him, instead of other people with USPS, this problem could have been avoided.

"The lease was changed about two years ago. There were a lot of problems that we had with landlords around the country so we had to change the lease because some of these landlords were not taking care of their properties," Shelton said. "When landlords call me, I usually can get through that lease to make it work."

But regardless, USPS wants more space than Gramor can offer in the Central Village. The postal service wants a one-story 10,000 square foot building with 65 parking spaces — a total of about two acres — and the plan proposed by Gramor was for a 6,000-square-foot building with not nearly enough parking.

Shelton said the Albertson's site is the first choice for a new post office, but restrictions from other businesses in the shopping center require the former Albertson's building to be a grocery store.

"There are multiple owners down in that plaza and they have cross easements in each others' favor that requires that large thing to be a grocery store. You need to get all those owners to agree to it to be something different," West Linn Community Development Director John Williams said.

But USPS and the City will keep working to make a post office in the former Albertsons possible.

"That would be ideal, so we are going to push the buttons of those property owners to see what we can do," Mayor Russ Axelrod said.

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