Pasadena's downtown rebirth: Restoring post office with secret room

PASADENA, Texas (KTRK) -- In the past two years, Pasadena has attracted $2 billion worth of new business to the area, with much of it related to the petrochemical industry.

But in contrast, the city's downtown area has been likened to a ghost town for much of the last 50 years, which is not necessarily reflective of the boom in business.

Buildings are boarded up where stores once thrived in the original incarnation of downtown.

The Pasadena post office opened in 1939 and later closed. In recent years, though, the building was sold to engineer Javier Morales, who now views it as more than just a piece of property.

"(The plan is to) revitalize this neighborhood," Morales said. "The city's made a commitment, re-doing Shaw Street, and make it a beautiful boulevard, and make it an anchor for years to come."

Morales' plans call for restoring the post office building and applying for a historic landmark designation. The mailboxes and vault will be preserved and hold features of his design.

In the middle of surveying the building, he's found strange pieces of the past as well, including a secret room.

"(There's) the postmaster's viewing port to make sure employees are doing their job, not stealing," Morales observed. "Peep holes. Peep holes even in the bathroom, even in the bathroom back in the day."

It's history, and Morales is also looking at the neighboring vintage property.

The restoration project is the first phase to what the city has sought for downtown, and it's what Pasadena Mayor Jeff Wagner believes is a start of a transformation.

"There's so many opportunities here: condos, business offices, so close to the port. Close to Houston. Close to everything important in the world right here, and once that's recognized, you'll see something happen," Wagner said.

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