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Postal Unit at Shopping Center Will Not Open Before Holidays

Matthew Hersh

Hopes for a postal unit at the Princeton Shopping Center in time for the holiday season have been squelched, as details delay construction.

The former postal unit, which was housed in the Skaters Alliance, a skating gear and apparel store, closed when the skate shop lost its lease in August. The "unit" was essentially an alternative drop-off point for mail and packages, providing a more convenient location for residents who chose the shopping center's accessibility over going downtown to the Palmer Square post office.

But, a new postal unit, if it were to open, would be subjected to refined requirements, making it easily identified and having the look of a post office, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

The postal unit is to be privately contracted with an individual store and a potential home for the unit is Glenmarle Woolworks; but proprietor Lee Herford said the U.S. Postal Service, which had initially claimed responsibility for construction costs, now says Woolworks will have to incur the $10,000 price tag to install the unit.

"[The postal service] told us from the outset that [construction] would be at their expense," she said. "Now they say they will not pay for [that], and this is not what we had hoped for."

Darlene Reed, retail manager of the postal service's Central New Jersey Performance Cluster, the faction that heads up individualized contracted units in the area, said that while negotiations are ongoing with the Woolworks owner, the unit will not open until well after the holiday season.

Ms. Reed said the cause of delay on the postal service's end is largely credited to a new process in individualized contract postal units that requires the interior be more "postal-ized." As a result, Ms. Reed said the unit "will look more like a post office with more modern equipment."

"We want to have a presence [at the shopping center] and we're working on it," Ms. Reed said. "It's a new process for us."

Princeton Shopping Center General Manager Chris Hannington said the bureaucratic process has bogged down the project.

"[The U.S. Postal Service] wants to put its new prototype in there to make it look more like a post office, and it requires work with fixtures and paint," she said. However, she said the delays have occurred long enough.

"We're not getting straight answers," she added.

Though the shopping center is not directly affiliated with any postal unit, Ms. Hannington said the service works in the best interest of area residents.

"We've been working on detail and we are trying to move the process along," she said. Dana Comfort, of George Comfort & Sons, Inc., the Manhattan-based real estate firm that manages Princeton Shopping Center's property, said the postal service has made matters difficult for Woolworks in light of the additional costs imposed on the enterprise.

"Ms. Herford put in a great effort to try to get this unit in," he said.

Ms. Herford, has said that if a postal unit were to open in her business, she would try to keep hours extended from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to possibly 7 p.m. on weekdays.

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