Palm Beach Story
May 20, 2011
In October of 2010, residents of Palm Beach, Florida, learned that their post office would be closing. An historic structure built in 1936 by the New Deal, it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Residents had a few weeks to protest, and protest they did, but to no avail—the post office is closing, probably sometime in June.
The post office has already been sold—to real estate mogul and former Democratic candidate for the Senate, Jeff Greene. Greene says he plans to use the Mediterranean-style building to house the offices of his Palm Beach-based company, Florida Sunshine Investments, Inc.
“I’ve known that building since I was a little kid, and I didn’t want anything bad to happen to it,” said Greene. As a teenager he used to pick up his father’s mail there. “I have a sentimental attachment to the post office,” Greene said. “What a marvelous building.”
How Greene made his millions became an issue when he ran for the Senate in 2010. In the Democratic primary, his opponent accused him of becoming a billionaire by trading the credit default swaps that helped plunge the country into a recession.
There was some truth to the accusation. As Forbes Magazine reported back in 2008 in a story entitled “The Reluctant Billionaire,” “Greene is one of those rare people who smelled trouble in housing when times were flush and made a contrarian bet that they wouldn't last. He did so by creating his own virtual hedge fund and buying credit default swaps that rose in value as subprime mortgages fell.” He earned a quick $800 million profit and a place on The Forbes 400 with a net worth of $1.4 billion.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved Greene’s renovations plans, which involve maintaining the building’s main lobby (as required by preservation convenants) but adding a second floor to the back of the building and demolishing the central service counter to make room for a hallway. The Commission is undecided for now on whether to keep the gold-painted sign above its entrance, “United States Post Office Palm Beach Florida.”
UPDATE: June 23, 2011: The Palm Beach Daily News reports that a new post office has opened in the Royal Poinciana Plaza,a retail and office complex. It's just a few blocks down from the now-closed main branch building. “It’s great. But I like the other one better,” said customer Gaudi De Pedro. "The other building was more of a traditional place. It was unique. I always saw all my neighbors there." The postal service has signed a 10-year lease for the space. No ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the new facility.
UPDATE: August, 2012: According to the Postal Service's new facilities list for leased properties, the annual rent on the new Palm Beach post office is $101,080.