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Movement targets closure of Lihue USPS branch

LIHUE — For the people of Kauai, the Lihue post office is more than just a swinging door for mail.

It’s part of Lihue’s history.

“The Lihue post office is an extremely important historic building in our town and for our island heritage,” said Pat Griffin, president of Lihue Business Association. “It’s a well-preserved example of a small single-purpose post office still in excellent condition and well used today.”

And because of the building’s significance to the town and the island, a grassroots campaign to keep it open has blossomed, called “Save our Post Office.”

The campaign was launched by the Lihue community and statewide preservationists who want to keep the doors of the historic building open, and the movement is spearheaded by the Historic Hawaii Foundation, of which Griffin is a board member.

It was Jan. 26 when the Kauai community learned of the United States Postal Service’s plan to close the 4441 Rice Street location and consolidate operations with the USPS Carrier Annex facility at 3230 Kapule Highway.

A meeting is scheduled for Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. in Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall’s Exhibition Room to further explain the potential closure of the building.

That comes just a couple of years after Kauai received a $13 million grant to revitalize Lihue’s town core.

“This closure announcement was a shock to all of us, especially in light of the TIGER grant that is encouraging walking communities in Lihue, as well as the efforts we have been working on for Rice Street branding,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitor’s Bureau.

The General Plan update has suggested that there is more room for growth in the Lihue area, she pointed out, and there’s a new subdivision being developed in Hanamaulu.

“I would venture to say both facilities are needed (Rice Street and Kapule Highway). It would be a shame to see an icon of Kauai’s history and charm be eliminated,” Kanoho said.

The Spanish Mission-style building is one of only two post offices in Hawaii constructed during the Great Depression and has been tenured in downtown Lihue since it was built in 1939.

It’s a fundamental part of the community, according to the Historic Hawaii Foundation.

But, USPS cites increasingly difficult parking and access issues as reasons for closure and consolidation on the outskirts of town, near the airport.

“This location would provide much improved access to Lihue postal customers,” Duke Gonzales of USPS told TGI in January.

Under the proposal, all Lihue P.O. box customers would have their boxes transferred to the new location, Gonzales said, and addresses would remain the same.

Depending on the time of day, between four and eight people work at the Rice Street location. No jobs would be lost under the proposal, because employees would be transferred.

As Save our Post Office becomes organized, representatives from Historic Hawaii Foundation said the intent is to rally the local Lihue community and “those who support historic preservation and vibrant, human-centric small town and urban centers throughout the islands.”

The group plans to spread its message of post office preservation by door-to-door canvassing, a social media campaign and postcard writing events.

The group also plans to send a clear message to USPS with a in island twist — mailing coconuts with messages of support for the Lihue post office to the San Francisco USPS representative.

For more information or to get on board with Save our Post Office, email Pat Griffin at association_info@lihuebusinessassociation.com or the Historic Hawaii Foundation at outreach@historichawaii.org.

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