New Albion Post Office under construction

New Albion Post Office under construction

This rendering from project architect O’Hearne Associates shows what the new building housing the Albion Post Office, convenience store and apartments is expected to look like once it is completed.

LINCOLN – It’s been 10 months since a multi-alarm fire claimed the historic Albion building that held the post office, food mart, social club and apartments.

The site has sat empty, flattened and gutted, but now, a CAT excavator and foundation hole are signs that one of Albion’s busiest properties is in the process of being rebuilt.

The Lincoln Building Department issued a permit on Nov. 3 to Jeff’s Home Improvement, a local contractor from North Smithfield, to rebuild the building, said Roger Pierce, Lincoln’s building official. Though the former social club will not return to the property, the apartments, U.S. post office and food mart will return, he said. The three apartments in the building will be two-story townhouse style apartments, said Jeff Piette, owner of Jeff’s Home Improvements.

Piette told The Valley Breeze Monday that he hopes the Albion Post Office, at 1 School St., will be up and running by spring.

“As of this point right now, by the end of the day today, all the prep work for the foundation should be just about ready, and we’re hoping to have a foundation in by the end of the week,” he said. “Originally, this should have been done in October.”

The structure of the building was supposed to be finished by now and the contractors were to be working on the inside of the building, but because of building requirements for the U.S. Postal Service, the plans were held up. If the upcoming winter is a mild one and Piette and his team are able to work throughout, he said he hopes the project will be done and ready by May or June of 2018. A tough winter could add a month to the schedule, he said.

It has been obvious that something was missing on the corner where the building used to sit, said Albert Ranaldi, Lincoln town planner. The new building will be a nod to what was there before the fire, he said.

The building destroyed in the fire was constructed before zoning policies, and the structure was built right up to the property line, which is not allowed in today’s zoning policies, Ranaldi said. However, if a fire destroys a property, the building put up in its place can be grandfathered in to the previous building’s standards, he said.

“Anybody that was familiar (with) the building will say that it resembles what was there,” he said. “The building would have been much different if it was a new building on a vacant piece of land. Because it was destroyed by fire, it deserved the same footprint and the same feel.”

Though the building will be grandfathered in under old standards, it will not have the same type of framing as the destroyed structure. The last building had balloon (light) framing, which easily allows fire to spread through the building, said Russell Hervieux, Lincoln’s zoning official.

Town Administrator Joe Almond said the new building will be a welcome addition in Albion.

Residents, who have had to retrieve their mail at the post office in Manville since last February’s fire, have missed their post office and will be very excited to have the building back, Almond said.

“We are certainly happy that the post office is going back there,” he said. “Historically, it goes back to the original use of the site prior to the fire, and the residents there have been greatly inconvenienced by having to transfer out. I think they’re all looking forward to its return.”

Deputy Chief Robert Valentine of the Albion Fire Station, whose team helped put out the fire, said the town looks forward to having the busy corner back again. The post office and food mart were very convenient for Albion residents, he said.

“Unfortunately, the way it all happened, they lost their little beacon back there and then they lost their post office. Things are starting to come back,” he said, “I’m happy to see (the post office) come back, along with the store. It’s missed by all of the people in the village.”

The Albion Post Office, convenience store, social club and apartment units were destroyed in February by a fire that started in the social club. More than 500 Albion residents have been picking up their mail at the Manville Post Office since then, because the U.S. Postal Service did not deliver to Albion residents’ homes. Next spring, residents will be able to pick up their mail closer to home again, when a new Albion Post Office is open at the site. (Breeze File photo)
Jeff Piette, owner of Jeff’s Home Improvement, which is constructing the new building that will house the Albion Post Office, has been working at the site on School Street in Lincoln preparing for the foundation. (Breeze photo by Ashley Wolf)