Maura In The News

City Fight down to 2 contenders?

By Eunice Kim / Staff Writer for West Roxbury Transcript
Wednesday, January 21, 2004

As officials and residents continue to debate a new location for the West Roxbury post office, two sites have come under debate - the former Decelle's building and property next to Lords & Ladys.

The former Decelle department store at 1870 Centre St. stands vacant with three floors open. Mike Barsamian of Lords & Ladys in West Roxbury proposes to build a two-story post office on his property on Belgrade Avenue.

People have not reached a consensus on either property.

"I never felt the Decelle's site would be a good fit for the post office," said At-Large City Councilor Maura Hennigan, arguing it has no parking there and little parking in back. "I just think you're moving the same problems just down the street."

Hennigan, who represented West Roxbury for years, said she is pushing for something to go into Decelle's, just not a post office.

Annette Born of Born Associates, the broker for the site, confirmed would-be tenants are looking at it, but she would not say who they were, other than ruling out an office or a bank.

"It's appropriate retail uses for the building," Born said.

In a Sept. 22 letter to Boston District Postmaster Marsha Cannon and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, among others, State Sen. Marian Walsh and State Rep. Michael Rush wrote, "We are aware that the former Decelle's store ... is being entertained by the Post Office as an alternative site and believe the idea is without merit. All of the current problems would remain at that location."

They went on to say that it is the "overwhelming consensus in the community" that a clothing retail store or restaurant would be the best fit.

But Walsh, in an interview with the Transcript, argued she has not said "no to Decelle's" and did not mean the site was "without merit." She said it is "without merit to not look at any other place."

"I'm anti-a done deal. I'm anti-not doing the best for our community," Walsh said.

The senator said she wants to look at all locations. Decelle's was singled out, she said, because she learned last summer the city encouraged the post office there.

She asked Cannon and a private real estate firm to have an open community process and to consider a safe, accessible location that would also encourage economic growth.

"My office has not said where the post office ought to go ... I can't say what the best location in West Roxbury is," Walsh said.

She said she does see disadvantages with the Decelle's site, such as the site's minimal parking.

Tobin said Decelle's may not be the best spot for a new post office, but he believes it should at least be considered. The site, he said, is in a pretty good location and has the appropriate square footage and a loading dock.

"Those who automatically dismiss a site, I don't think that's the best way to go about it," Tobin said.

Barsamian's idea

Barsamian envisions a building next to Lords & Ladys to house the post office, which would be about 25,000 square feet, would include about 60 parking spots in a two-story underground garage, and six to seven loading docks on the Belgrade Avenue side.

"It's really a location that makes a lot of sense. It's just a matter of if the federal government wants it," Barsamian said.

Hennigan thinks it is appropriate to look at Barsamian's property. People already parked at Roche Bros. could go to the post office or vice versa, she said.

Though many speculate Walsh is pushing for the Barsamian site, Walsh said she does not support it. She believes the site should be on the table.

"I have to see it as compared to what," Walsh said, adding that she thinks the site is superior to Decelle's.

Tobin, meanwhile, said it does not make sense to "build another building when you have all of these structure that are up and vacant."

Kerry does not have any opinion on the location of the post office, said Drew O'Brian, state director of Kerry's office. "He only wants to help the people of West Roxbury after they decide where it ought to be," O'Brian said.

Eunice Kim can be reached at [email protected]

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