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Post office building in Forest Grove to be sold at auction

Owner defaults, but USPS has option to lease facility until 2020


NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: NANCY TOWNSLEY - The Forest Grove Post Office facility at 1822 21st Ave. has been foreclosed upon and will be sold at public auction in September.Employees at the Forest Grove post office were surprised to learn this month that their space at 1822 21st Ave. will be auctioned off in the fall.

The News-Times has confirmed that the building that has housed the Forest Grove Post Office for more than a half-century has been foreclosed upon and will be sold at public auction Sept. 30 on the steps of the Washington County Courthouse.

But that pending sale doesn't necessarily mean the post office will be closing or moving, because the federal government doesn't own the facility — it leases it.

The News-Times was unable to reach the building’s owner, Karen J. Gladyschild of Portland, but public documents show she failed to make an April 1 mortgage payment of $5,134.63 and that ownership was awarded to the Georgia-based Atlanta Postal Credit Union in a default judgment earlier this month.

Lease gives post office staying power

Meanwhile, rumblings among Forest Grove postal employees that local operations might shut down, consolidate or move were quashed Friday by U.S. Postal Service officials.

“At this point the building's ownership does not affect our operations,” said Western Area Corporate Communications Manager John Friess, who confirmed USPS' current lease expires Oct. 31 but includes an option to renew through October 2020.

“The onus is on us to make that decision. As far as I know we plan to stay in that building.”

His colleague, Peter Hass of the USPS corporate communications office in Phoenix, Ariz., said the postal service “has the option to renew the lease … regardless of the ownership of the building.”

Mayor Pete Truax said Sunday he hadn't heard the post office building was in foreclosure or that a sale was pending. He said he didn’t know how the sale of the building might affect the city’s efforts to develop the rest of the block, where it owns the former Times-Litho building — but indicated city officials would likely want to bid on the property.

“I'd be shocked if the city wasn't interested in being in the crowd at the auction,” said Truax, who has lived in Forest Grove for 50 years. He was aware the USPS had leased space from the building's various private owners “for years,” and noted that no matter who buys the facility, “huge upgrades” in accessibility and the parking configuration will be necessary in order to meet federal Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Times-Litho, the adjacent Ruralite building and the post office all are “pieces to that block's development puzzle,” Truax added.

Proposals for refurbishing or relocating the post office have been kicking around since at least the mid-1990s, when plans to build a new facility fell through. Truax said plans were in the works at that time for a “government cluster” at the corner of 19th and Main Street — including City Hall and the post office. But then “all hell broke loose with the economy and that went away,” he said.

Forest Grove City Councilor Richard Kidd recalled that a partnership with the USPS to establish a “municipal block” — relocating the post office and moving City Hall, Forest Grove Light & Power and the Community Auditorium to where 1910 Main Bistro currently sits — was “nearly done and approved” when a group of parents tried to stop it.

“The concept was to provide all local government services to the citizens of the community in one central location,” said Kidd, who was mayor at the time. But those plans went awry at least partly because of “political pressure from parents whose kids were going to a dance class” downtown and didn't want their venue to disappear, he said. “They mounted a massive letter writing campaign.”

City officials sought "some special funding" to add a brick facade to match other buildings on the block, noted Kidd, and then the postal service — which had planned to build a new facility at the site — “walked away from it."

Since then, new post offices have been built in the neighboring cities of Gaston and Cornelius.

Financial troubles

Washington County property records show Gladyschild purchased the building in January 2000 from Donald Darby for $429,000 and transferred ownership to one of her companies, Backwards & In High Heels LLC, in 2006.

Documents indicate Gladyschild, a licensed psychologist with a Lloyd Center office, suffered some financial setbacks in recent years.

Citizens Bank sued one of her many companies, Purr Powered LLC, for $554,151 in a civil judgment in Yamhill County in 2011. Backwards & In High Heels was dissolved in October 2012 and that same year she filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

The default judgment on the post office building was signed on May 6.

Built in 1951

According to Truax and Bob Sagar — who was postmaster from 1973 to 1984 and worked for the USPS for 37 years — the local post office facility was built in 1951 by Joe Vandervelden, a builder and property owner. Since then it has changed hands three times.

County records indicate Joseph Vanderzanden owned the building from 1972 to 1994 and Donald Darby owned it from 1994 to 2000. Darby then sold it to Gladyschild.

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