Downtown post office project nears completion
by Anna Oakes
The town of Boone's Planning & Inspections Department is preparing to relocate to the downtown post office by the first week of April as renovations to the historic building near completion.
Contractor Greene Construction last week began a final "punch list" of tasks necessary to finish the $1.2 million renovation project, which began in August.
The U.S. Postal Service downtown station window and boxes remain in operation on the upper floor of the building, while the lower floor and portions of the upper level have been renovated to accommodate the town's Planning & Inspections Department, which currently shares a building with the Boone Police Department on Blowing Rock Road.
The post office, a Works Progress Administration project constructed in 1938, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Architect Randy Jones worked closely with the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure the renovations did not affect the building's status with the National Register.
"We've done everything to save this lobby and the front fašade," said Bill Bailey, Planning & Inspections Department director.
A wheelchair-accessible ramp provides access from the King Street sidewalk to the department's main entrance, which is located on the lower east side of the building. Another wheelchair-accessible ramp provides access to the upper floor post office lobby from handicapped parking spaces in the building's rear parking lot.
Newly added rock walls and metal fencing closely resemble those of the original 1938 structure, and the upper floor's original maple floors, post office signs and other fixtures have been preserved.
The building's original weather vane and mural of Daniel Boone will be rehabilitated when the weather is warmer.
The building has been outfitted for natural gas service and includes several energy-efficient features, including motion-sensing lights and instant water heaters on faucets.
Landscaping will take place in mid-April.
One room located on the upper floor and accessible from the front lobby -- originally the postmaster's office --does not yet have a designated use. It could potentially serve as a downtown visitor center or office for the town's downtown coordinator, Bailey said.
The town purchased the building from the U.S. Postal Service for $1.25 million in 2009. The U.S. Postal Service announced last year that it plans to continue services at the downtown station despite studying the potential closure of the station in 2011.