USPS meets with community to talk about historic Rice Street site

LIHUE — The US Postal Service plan to close the Rice Street post office throws a wrench into the revitalization plan for downtown Lihue, but it could also help with safety concerns for pedestrians.

Those were some of the perspectives shared on Thursday evening at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall during a USPS hosted meeting on the topic.

“The location is important to the Lihue Town Plan that people have spent so much time on, to make a walkable town core,” said Leilani Spencer.

Daniel Riley, however, said the location presents problems for pedestrians and cyclists.

“I’ve seen some close calls. I know the automobiles don’t stop for the pedestrians,” Riley said. “My preference would be to see it removed from there.”

Spencer and Riley were among about 150 people who showed up to hear about the potential closure and relocation of the Rice Street post office directly from USPS representatives.

Most people at the meeting said they were against closing the Rice Street post office and consolidating it with an annex facility on Kapule Highway. Some supported it.

Dean Cameron, Pacific area retail specialist for USPS, brought everyone up to speed on the reasoning behind the consolidation proposal.

“About a couple of years ago the congestion and parking issue was brought to people’s attention and the planning department came to the conclusion that if we were to decide to do it, it could be done,” Cameron said.

The process could happen within a year, Cameron said, but he said no decision has been made.

Thursday’s meeting was one of the initial steps of the proposal, he said, and it’s a way for USPS to gauge the community’s feelings on the idea.

“These meetings have changed the minds of planners before,” he said, “and since the announcement, we’ve learned some things, like about the revitalization project. Were that to occur, that could alleviate some parking issues.”

The Kauai community found out about the planned closure on Jan 26, when a memo was posted at the 4441 Rice Street location. Following the memo, representatives from USPS told TGI the plan is to consolidate operations with the USPS Carrier Annex facility at 3230 Kapule Highway.

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

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.

“We have heard people here in Lihue really love the historical quality of it,” Cameron said.

Currently, USPS proposes to transfer all Lihue P.O. box customers to the new location and addresses would remain the same.

Shortly following the announcement of the planned closure, a grassroots effort called Save our Post Office began on Kauai with the intent to rally the Lihue community and “those who support historic preservation and vibrant, human-centric small town and urban centers throughout the islands,” according to organizers of the movement.

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 an island twist — mailing coconuts with messages of support for the Lihue post office to the San Francisco USPS representative.

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