Bird droppings, safety netting don’t make Post Office building unusable, government argues

The front entrance to the downtown Milwaukee U.S. Postal Service facility.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 10:54 am

Attorneys representing the U.S. Postal Service want the eviction case brought by the owner of the downtown post office dismissed, arguing the landlord has not pointed to any defect “so severe that it would render the property unusable.”

An affiliate of Chicago-based R2 Properties, 345 Property Owner LLC, originally filed a lawsuit seeking to evict the USPS last year from its downtown location on St. Paul Avenue. Settlement talks reached an impasse this spring and the property owner filed an amended complaint. R2 says the Postal Service has not properly maintained the building, but government attorneys argue the landlord is trying to re-write the lease.

The amended complaint points to a number of issues with the building including the north roof being covered in moss, plants, birds and bird droppings, safety netting installed under all exterior coffered ceilings and the entire maintenance shop ceiling, worn away epoxy coating letting water infiltrate concrete slabs in some places and “obvious signs of concrete deterioration” in other places.

“Bird droppings and moss are surely not enough to render an industrial building unusable,” government attorneys wrote as part of an effort to have the case dismissed.

“Likewise, the existence of safety netting is itself not a defect at all,” they added. “It could be taken to indicate an underlying defect, but even though Plaintiff admits that its engineers inspected the property … Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint has not raised any specific allegations of damage to either ceiling.”

The Postal Service’s lease for the building dates back to 1970. The initial term was for 30 years with eight 5-year renewal options. USPS exercised its most recent option in 2018, extending the lease through March 2025.

R2 Properties bought the building in 2015 and announced ambitious plans to redevelop the property with nearly 1 million square feet of office space, a 282,000-square-foot residential tower, a big box retailer, and 300,000 square feet of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, as well as 212,000 square feet of space for a big box retailer. A 13,000-square-foot extension of the river walk and a 14,000-square-foot pedestrian bridge connecting the building to the Harley-Davidson Museum across the Menomonee River would also be added, according to the plans.

The government says the lawsuit is an effort by the property owner to oust the Postal Service or re-write the lease “after seeing its widely-publicized redevelopment plans postponed.”

USPS is seeking to have the case dismissed, arguing the amended complaint fails to make a claim and the lease gives the Postal Service the ability to decide when and how it makes repairs to the facility.

“Although the Plaintiff may wish the lease had different language than it does, the current landlord purchases this property with a lease whose terms were originally negotiated and accepted in 1970,” the government attorneys write.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

No posts to display