The United States Postal Service, which over a year ago announced it would seek to sell the Union Square Post Office, officially put the building on the market a couple of weeks ago, according to an email from Dennis Tarmey, a spokesperson for the Post Office.
The building, which opened in 1936, according to Tarmey, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is on the market for $2.5 million. The lobby of the building contains original murals painted by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.
Not a closure
The Post Office is not planning to close Union Square as a location, Tarmey emphasized in his email. Rather, the postal service is looking to sell the current building at 237 Washington St. and maintain a "retail presence" in Union Square.
"We may shift our retail part of our operation to a smaller nearby location and provide the same retail services (postage sales, post office boxes, etc.)," Tarmey wrote in the email. He said the Post Office would move its carrier operation to the Incoming Mail Center in Chelsea.
The Union Square Post Office would only move if the postal service is able to sell the current building and acquire about 2000 square feet of retail space, "preferably in the Union Square area," Tarmey wrote.
The Post Office announced in January plans to close 3700 locations across the country, but it had no plans to close offices in Somerville. Some Post Office sites in nearby communities were slated for closure (two in Medford, two in Cambridge, two in Arlington).
Performing arts center plans
The Post Office had made public its plans for the Union Square building over a year ago.
Initially, the city of Somerville had considered negotiating a deal to acquire the building and turn it into a performing arts center.
With the property officially on the market, the city is still interested in seeing the building used in that capacity, according to city spokesperson Tom Champion, but Somerville is not looking to foot the bill on its own.
"Acquisition and operating costs would be prohibitive for the city," he said.
Champion said converting the building into a performing arts center would be consistent with the city's comprehensive plan for Union Square, which seeks to maintain the area as a destination for arts and culture.
It would also fit well with restrictions placed on the building as an historic site. The building's new owner would have to preserve the murals and façade and would be subject to regulations from the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
If a nonprofit organization wanted to pursue a performing arts project at the site, the city might be interested in a partnership, Champion said.