US Postal Service’s Infrastructure: How can we maintain and expand our public realm?
I don’t want to push post offices and mail services straight out the door yet, but things are not looking good. Even if it is decades before the US post service becomes obsolete or replaced by private carriers, the possibility is definitely in sight and the volume of mail is trending downward. How many Federally-owned, physical operations can you name that exist and impact so many communities so directly? Post offices and distribution centers are, of course, everywhere occupying some of the most centralized urban locations. “With 32,000 post offices throughout the country, USPS has more retail locations than McDonald’s, Starbucks, Wal-Mart and Walgreens combined…[but] the average foot traffic for a post office is about one tenth of that at Walgreens — a mere 600 weekly customers.” It isn’t too soon to start planning for the reuse of so much high quality space.
This marks a great opportunity to maintain and expand the public realm. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of simply beautiful post office facades in this nation, often made with lovingly crafted marble or other fancily carved stones. Many are graced with individualized, artistic finishes to their doors or lighting fixtures, the kind of touch that is unthinkably expensive today. Like firehouses, water stations, or old schoolhouses, post office architecture can often serve as points of town identity. As they slowly spend more and more time closed for business, or even shuttered for good, we should think about rescuing them as public “3rd place” in the same way libraries have become community focal points. Many predicted the demise of the public library in the digital information age, but libraries have reinvented themselves (some drastically so as “urban mediaspace”, a concept I’m fond of) and they have never been more essential to educating, providing support services, and generating social capital.
We could, and probably should, allow many to become little cafes and restaurants, but even better is to reinvent them as grand, new public infrastructure ala the Moynihan Station project has done with the Farley Post Office.
I invite people to please brain storm more ways in which we can save and reuse post office and their support buildings as “3rd places” and provide links to any other examples of what has already been done.
- Hefner Saves Hollywood
- Greece Revolts, DOW Jones Plummets; Make Sense?
- Happy Earth Day Everyone!
- Steel Factories into Art Factories: Limitless Potential?
- China Goes Back to Bikes? Not really.
- Ruins Ruined.
- SOS USPS Oregon Art Deco Post Office for Sale
- SOS USPS: Post Office Buildings Going for Sale
- What makes the mundane marvelous?