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Suit to evict post office on-hold while government shutdown continues

The federal government shutdown has put the brakes on a developer’s lawsuit to evict the U.S. Postal Service from its office in downtown Milwaukee.

A judge on Wednesday issued a stay in the case after U.S. Justice Department lawyers argued they had been barred from working on it during the ongoing government shutdown, which began on Dec. 21. The Chicago developer R2 Companies blames the postal service for letting a 1.1 million-square-foot building the USPS rents in downtown Milwaukee fall into disrepair, and wants a federal judge to approve an eviction.

But until the government reopens, the case is frozen.

“Absent an appropriation, Department of Justice attorneys are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances, including ’emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property,'” according to a motion from U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger.

After R2 Companies had filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court seeking the eviction of the postal service from the offices it’s renting on Saint Paul Avenue, the case was moved to federal court in October. R2 contends that, during an inspection of the building, it had found a leaky roof and other signs of neglect and that it had been asking the postal service to repair the damage for months in vain.

R2 and Polsky Holdings, both of Chicago, bought the building for $13 million in 2015, inheriting the postal service as a tenant. The post office has occupied the space since 1970 and has options to renew its lease through 2040.

The property is within walking distance of Milwaukee’s bustling Third Ward and is bordered by the Menominee River. In 2016, R2 rolled out a $100 million renovation plan that would replace the postal service, should it ever move out of the building, with restaurants, retail space and other attractions.

In early December, a court filing hinted the case may have been headed for an amicable end. Attorneys for R2 Companies had asked for a deadline extension while the two parties discussed a resolution to the dispute.

About Nate Beck, [email protected]

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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