After sitting vacant since 1997, the U.S. Postal Service netted $40 million today in an auction for Chicago's old central post office building. Better late than never, since USPS has been paying roughly $2 million annually (presumably since 1997) just to maintain an empty building. Per Reuters:
Chicago's old main post office, originally built in the 1920s and vacant for more than a decade, was sold at auction on Thursday for $40 million.
The suggested minimum bid was just $300,000 and bidders had to have a certified check for $250,000 to express good faith. The identity of the winning bidder was not immediately disclosed.
The 2.5-million square foot building (232,000 sq meters), which straddles an expressway and sits above railroad tracks, was deemed a must-sell because the U.S. Postal Service did not want to keep paying the $2 million annual cost of upkeep, auctioneer Rick Levin & Associates said.
The postal service moved its main office across the street from the old facility in 1997. The old nine-story building, flanked by two towers, was once the U.S. Postal Service's largest facility. Its soaring marble-floored lobby was featured in a scene in "The Dark Knight," the latest entry in the Batman movie franchise.
Among past failed proposals for the structure, which sits adjacent to the Chicago River and near the downtown Loop, were converting it into condominiums, a hotel, an auto dealership, an indoor parking facility, a casino and water park.
Unfortunately, $40 million is just a drop in the bucket relative to the red ink the USPS is bleeding these days, but still, this is a solid start to what I'd expect will become a large-scale asset divestiture program over time. Given their financial crisis, it's not a question of if, but how much and when.