OCEAN CITY — While its future recently appeared in doubt, the downtown U.S. Postal Service (USPS) branch at 5th Street will remain in place for a while after resort officials this week agreed to renew the lease.
The Town of Ocean City purchased the property the downtown post office sits on at 5th Street in 2016 for $1.3 million. The property was eyed as a future expansion of the adjacent municipal parking lot at 4th Street, or even a south-end transit station, providing a turnaround for the municipal buses.
However, when the town purchased the property, the USPS still had a five-year lease. Ocean City picked up the lease, which pays the town roughly $90,000 each year. That lease is set to expire in April 2022, leaving the town with a decision to make, City Engineer Terry McGean told the Mayor and Council on Tuesday.
“When the town purchased the property, you inherited an obligation to the U.S. Postal Service to lease the property until 2022,” he said. “The question now is, do you want to renew the lease? We need a little guidance to proceed. The options are to sell the property for a profit, expand the parking lot at 4th Street or begin negotiations with the USPS on a lease renewal.”
Councilman Lloyd Martin was in favor of renewing the lease without an immediate need for the property.
“We’ve almost assembled a whole block downtown,” he said. “We should keep it on our radar, especially if we want to reconfigure our downtown transit operation at some point. I’m in favor of renewing the lease without a long-term commitment.”
While plans for a downtown transit station have been discussed, Martin said that project is not on the town’s radar immediately.
“I don’t think, in the eyes of the council, we’re going to do a transit station there any time soon,” he said. “It could be essential down the road, though. I’d be in favor of a five-year lease with options.”
Council Secretary Tony DeLuca said he believed the plan all along was to extend the lease with the USPS.
“I thought we always said if the post office wanted to stay there, we would renew the lease if we didn’t have an immediate need,” he said.
Councilman Mark Paddack said despite the larger, newer post office up north, the 5th Street USPS branch was still a hub for downtown residents.
“It could be both parking and a transit station, but that is not in our immediate plan,” he said. “The downtown community gravitates around that post office and it provides a service. I’m in favor of renewing the lease. If we need it down the road, we can negotiate that.”
The council voted unanimously to begin negotiations to renew the lease with the USPS.