The hulking concrete structure at the site of the former central post office on Midway Drive in San Diego has been haunting a stretch of Point Loma for nearly a decade, with little to no activity at the location.
No good activity, anyway. Back in 2015, James Dudley cut a lock on a fence and broke into the building, stripping out nearly 700 pounds of copper before he was discovered loading it into his vehicle. He pulled a 30-month sentence and was ordered to pay $123,984.08 to the Postal Service for his trouble.
For years, the property, bounded by Barnett Avenue to the south and Midway Drive to the east, has been as still as a graveyard. Its glory days began in 1972, when the building became the city's main post office and was San Diego's go-to for late tax filers, with drivers lining up April 15 to drop off returns. Its descent, however, began in '93, when the Margaret L. Sellers Processing and Distribution Center in Carmel Mountain Ranch became the main USPS facility in San Diego, capable of handling as much as 10 times the volume that had been processed at the Midway branch. Still, a small, temporary building on the site has been handling USPS retail services ever since.
There were reports in 2015 that the site had been sold, with the San Diego Business Journal reporting that the 16-acre site had been purchased by Rexford Industrial Realty of Los Angeles, for $19.3 million.
"Rexford plans an initial phase that will include redeveloping the ground floor of the two buildings into 10 industrial units ranging between 10,000 and 45,000 square feet," the SDBJ reported at the time, adding, "[the] second phase will include repositioning up to approximately 144,000 square feet of second-floor space in the larger of the two buildings. Rexford expects to complete work and deliver the first finished spaces within 18 months."
None of that happened, of course. Slowing development on the site, possibly, was an exception to the 30-foot coastal height limit that prospective developers of the Sports Arena are hoping for these days.
Now, after a decade, however, redevelopment at the Midway site has begun: The San Diego-based AMG Demolition & Environmental Services company recently unfurled a massive banner on the back of the building.
Mike Gafa, one of AMG's owners -- the "G" is for "Gafa" -- confirmed by phone on Tuesday that work is under way. He said the property has, in fact, been divided into at least two parts. The main building, where mail once was processed, is actually composed of two halves, separated by an expansion joint that physically separates the building, and at this point, each half has a different owner. A Post Office still operates in the third section, to the northwest. It's not clear if that section has been rented by the USPS.
"The project that is going to happen is for new residential homes on the southern portion of it," said Gafa of AMG, which is a family owned business with offices a short distance away on the Pacific Highway near Old Town. "I'm not sure if it's condos or townhomes."
The general contractor for the south half of the building is Fairfield Residential, a property-management company that is also at work on another project on Morena Boulevard, according to Gafa.
"I'm not sure on the owner to the north, what their plans are for the rest of the property," Gafa said.
AMG is just waiting for a green light from Fairfield to begin dismantling the structure. Sadly, there will be no large-scale. earth-shaking dynamite collapse of the building, despite its hulking proportions.
"We use heavy machinery, such as hydraulic excavators with demolition attachments," Gafa said. "That allows us to demolish the structure in a top-down methodology."
In fact, four excavators are already parked in the lot, awaiting that green light.
The darkened interior of the building has been cleared for years --"vacant, like a concrete parking lot," Gafa said -- but it won't be gone overnight.
"To demolish the building and everything, it's probably going to take three to four months," Gafa said, adding, "everything we demolish, we do our best to hit all our recycling goals. This concrete will be crushed into smaller size aggregate and reused on-site as part of the construction."