Post office in federal courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh will close tomorrow

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When the federal courthouse on Grant Street was built between 1931 and 1934, it was designed as a postal center first and a courthouse second, and designated as the "U.S. Post Office, Courthouse & So Forth."

After today, it will be strictly a courthouse and so forth.

Today will be the last day of operation for the post office in the building. The retail operation, which employs about 15 people, will move to Liberty Center and open there Tuesday after the Presidents Day holiday Monday.

The move has been in the works for years because the postal service didn't need the two floors it leased from the General Services Administration in the courthouse.

In 2011, the carrier operation moved out and the postal service began looking for a better location for the remaining retail center.

Spokesman Tad Kelley said Liberty Center is ideal.

The lease is cheaper than the rent the post office paid previously to GSA, although he didn't have the figures at hand, and he said the center will remain close to Grant Street for the convenience of Downtown customers.

"We think it's going to be well-received," Mr. Kelley said. "It's a perfect location."

Several customers contacted Friday weren't convinced.

Kathy Gasper, who works in the nearby U.S. Steel building and has been using the post office for five years, said the new location would be less convenient for her.

But she said the move was a good idea if it would improve the post office's bottom line.

"If it's economical, and if it keeps them afloat, then it's a good move," Ms. Gasper said.

Another U.S. Steel employee, Leslie Clemons, has used the post office several times a week for about two decades. She said she was frustrated the post office was moving because it will take another five minutes to walk to the new location.

"I hate it," she said. "When it was wintertime, I could just cross the street."

The move marks the end of an era for the post office.

For decades, the place bustled with thousands of postal workers on the first three floors, where mail was deposited from huge metal chutes into train cars that ran into the building from the nearby Pennsylvania Railroad Station.

The architects, who also designed the Gulf Building and Mellon Bank, purposely had the building constructed on top of the tracks to take advantage of the railroad for moving mail.

The tracks have long since been removed, and the giant chutes are gone, but the floor where the trains came and went is still called "track level."

The heyday of the postal service has long since passed, and the post office is facing dire straits these days -- losing money, closing postal centers and reducing hours.

The post office is not supported by tax dollars and is entirely reliant on supporting itself, but mail volume has been dropping dramatically for years.

Richard Webner contributed. Torsten Ove: or 412-263-1510.

Torsten Ove: or 412-263-1510. First Published February 14, 2014 2:01 PM

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