Status: Lost Forever
4/2010: Demolition of the Atlantic City Post Office has begun. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is overseeing the demolition: the building is being cleared for the road widening originally deemed necessary for Pinnacle Development’s proposed casino project on the site of the Sands Hotel. Despite the fact that this project has been abandoned and the vacant Sands site is now up for sale, shortly after the post office is gone, the CRDA will start construction on the widening project, which will transform a narrow stretch of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard into two lanes in each direction between Atlantic and Pacific Avenues. “Iconic elements” of the building were salvaged before demolition, including two sculpted eagles (once parts of a door surround), and a mural depicting Atlantic City’s history.
The imposing Atlantic City Post Office was a New Deal project built between 1935 and 1937. Of the neoclassical design, with Italian marble floors, brass ornaments and light fixtures, and two remarkable 1939 murals, “Family Recreations” and “Youth” executed by Peppino Mangravite, the building was intended to convey civic pride and a sense of permanence. But if the plans of the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) come to fruition the old Post Office, which the CRDA purchased from the US Postal Service will be permanently gone, like so much else of Atlantic City’s past.
This stately reminder of the 1930s is located near the site where Pinnacle Entertainment plans to build a $1.5 billion mega resort. CRDA acquired the Post Office from the federal government, but now claims it stands in the way of a plan to improve access to the future Pinnacle complex by widening Martin Luther King Boulevard.
A 2004 agreement CRDA reached with Governor McGreevey and the Sands Casino, which then owned the property, encouraged incorporation of the post office into the Sands’s expansion plans. Because these transactions involved the transfer of federally owned, National-Register-eligible property, the State Historic Preservation Office entered into a 2005 memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Postal Service and CRDA that called for mitigation, including removing the murals to another postal facility, documenting the structure, and completing a National and New Jersey Register nomination. At the time of the Agreement, it was assumed that the CRDA, as a quasi-state agency, would have to seek authorization from the state for its redevelopment plans involving an NJ Register-listed site. But when the CRDA management changed, the agency neglected to incorporate the site’s historic status into the Post Office’s future.
The Register listings have not occurred, and the US Postal Service sold the Post Office building to CRDA without fulfilling the terms of the mitigation agreement. The legal implications of this are not clear.
In March 2008, Pinnacle Entertainment announced a delay in its project and the potential abandonment altogether if credit markets stay weak. PNJ hopes this hiatus will be used to reopen the discussion about saving this valuable resource.
Bill Schutz, American Postal Workers Union Local 3617
Dan Saunders, NJHPO