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Editorial: Is the time right for Brenau to go postal?
If post office relocates branch away from busy Green Street, university is a natural fit for site
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Visitors to the Green Street branch of the U.S. Postal Service search for parking Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. - photo by Scott Rogers

The U.S. Post Office building on Green Street in Gainesville opened in 1967, when Lyndon Johnson was president, TV consisted of four channels and traffic was lighter through what was then still a small town.

For more than four decades since, city and Postal Service leaders have discussed finding a new and better location for the branch.

A peek through Times archives finds discussions to move the branch to a better site as far back as December 1975, when the then-Gainesville City Commission urged the post office to relocate.

Times editorials in the past did the same. One from January 1976 stated, “Something must be done soon about the traffic problem at Gainesville Post Office.” Another from May 1977 stated, “The post office was badly located in the first place and ought to be moved.” And a headline on a November 1984 editorial reads: “Post office needs relocating — the sooner the better.”

So this is not a new idea. As anyone traveling Green Street can attest, getting to the post office is a major hassle. If you’re coming off E.E. Butler Parkway or West Academy Street, getting in is tough and getting out is even more of a bear; the opposite is the case headed down from Thompson Bridge Road or Riverside Drive. Those of us who work at The Times across the road can vouch for what a nightmare Green Street traffic can be, seemingly at all times of the day and night.

Yet despite years of ideas to move the branch, none of them ever came to fruition. The only slight addition to ease traffic was creating a back entrance off Academy Street.

Now the post office is again looking to relocate its main Gainesville center to an undetermined site nearby and sell the property.

And the first thought coming to mind is: Hmmm. Wonder who might be interested in that property?

It doesn’t take much imagination. The post office is nearly surrounded by Brenau University, with the Jacobs Business and Communications Arts building on one side and the Burd Center and the bulk of the campus just behind it.

In fact, the post office almost seems to occupy an island unto itself on the Golden Tigers’ turf. The map on the Brenau website shows the post office hanging off the edge of the campus like a sore pinky toe.

So, speak of the devil: Brenau would indeed love to have that lot.

“We have long coveted that space,” Brenau President Ed Schrader said during Tuesday’s public hearing Tuesday on the proposed relocation. “We would love to move students into that facility, primarily for our teacher education program, which is growing right now.”

It makes perfect sense. The university may someday outgrow its 57-acre campus, with its enrollment reaching 1,200 and more degrees and disciplines offered.

Whether the building itself remains of any use, the land would be a valuable asset for the university. And accessing it would be much easier from the campus itself than from congested Green Street.

The Georgia Department of Transportation’s proposal to create roundabouts on either end of the tree-lined avenue could help ease some traffic, but may not ease egress from the post office if it stays in place.

The postal service, meanwhile, would prefer a smaller facility than the current 25,000-square-foot building, to be located in a 3.5-mile radius from the site. The public can offer its thoughts in a 30-day comment period on the post office relocation, through Feb. 22. They can be sent to c/o Vice President, Facilities Sandra A. Rybicki, Real Estate Specialist, USPS Facilities Implementation, PO Box 667180, Dallas, TX 75266-7180.

It’s hard to imagine too many folks objecting. During the busy holiday mailing season, it’s not unusual to find a line of vehicles trying to move in and out of the tiny parking lot. And crossing Green Street by foot to get there is like a real-life game of Frogger. Trust us on that fact, too.

“I would love nothing more than to move the post office off of Green Street,” Councilman Sam Couvillon said. “I think it would just make it a more appealing avenue to travel without all that traffic going in and out.”

If it all works out, it’s a win-win: The post office can move to a better spot where traffic is less of a concern, and Brenau can grow its campus within a short stroll of its other buildings. If the price is right and the deal is done, perhaps it can get a few more cars off Green Street as well.

And we hope that someday an intrepid Times editorial writer won’t look back through the files, find this particular edition and ask: “So how come the post office never did anything?”

Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a letter to the editor; you can use this form or send email to The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.