At one time, real estate developer Louis Bobrow owned the largest number of post office buildings in New York State.
In 1975, the Southampton Village post office property—including the land and building located at 39 Nugent Street—joined the roster, becoming the 26th such building in Mr. Bobrow’s possession. The United States government was a safe and secure tenant, Mr. Bobrow had reasoned. When he died in 2006, he left the Nugent Street location to his 26 heirs.
But the government was not as reliable a tenant as Mr. Bobrow had anticipated. Thanks to the ever-growing popularity of the East End, the U.S. Postal Service outgrew its 6,746-square-foot Nugent Street space—as well as an annex on Jagger Lane, which is not owned by Mr. Bobrow—and opened a new, 8,000-square-foot Southampton headquarters on North Sea Road in 2009. The new digs left the circa-1953 brick Colonial vacant.
With a down economy and without a purpose, the building hasn’t had a tenant since 2009. And Mr. Bobrow’s son and heir, Norman Bobrow, the listing agent and president of commercial real estate company Norman Bobrow & Co. in Manhattan, is doing everything he can to find one.
“It’s interesting, these things,” Mr. Bobrow chuckled last week during a telephone interview. “You just think it’s going to be one way. You thought when the building became available, everyone would be scampering to get in that space and it just didn’t turn out the way we thought.”
The post office officially hit the market in November 2011, due to the provisions of a previously established lease between Mr. Bobrow and the United States government, which were in effect until that time. But there have been no takers in sight in the past year.
Nestled between the Astoria Federal Savings Bank and HSBC on what Mr. Bobrow calls “Bank Row,” the commercial building would be the perfect location for a branch absent from the village, he said.
Shortly after the initial listing, which was $6.5 million to buy, or $60-per-square-foot to lease, Mr. Bobrow reached out to TD Bank. Following some negotiations and a sketch of the layout, the project was a go until the bank’s executives slammed on the brakes. They said TD Bank had stopped expansion in the area, Mr. Bobrow said, citing a higher return rate in Manhattan than on Long Island.
“I was very surprised, because I thought it was actually happening,” he said.
Mr. Bobrow’s descendants went back to the drawing board. As a group, they considered a model showroom for kitchens or home extensions, an internet café, a spa, a bakery, even a botanical garden. But the idea that has Mr. Bobrow most excited is a small art gallery or a museum.
Last year, he reached out to film director Steven Spielberg about housing the East Hampton resident’s large collection of Norman Rockwell paintings inside the former post office for public viewing. Mr. Spielberg’s office rejected the offer, though, saying the private art is almost always on tour.
Mr. Bobrow isn’t quite ready to let go of his idea to put an art gallery on the site, which is now listed at $6 million for purchase, or $50-per-square-foot for lease, he reported. “The impact of being with one artist in one building is very moving,” Mr. Bobrow said. “That’s what I want to do here, something like that, something that would help the community. If you’re in the Hamptons and it’s a rainy day, there’s just so much shopping and eating you can do. It’s an idea for people who have a large collection and don’t know what to do with it. They could own or rent this building for many years and have it as some kind of monument to themselves. Unfortunately, nobody’s jumped on the bandwagon yet.”