|Mixing public and private uses in St. Louis' Old Post Office. Flickr: Kodamakitty|
"Unfortunately, the United States Post Office is going to sell hundreds of buildings like these because the USPS just isn’t going to need as much capacity going forward. Yet, these structures are strikingly unique and immediately recognizable symbols of our civic culture."He wants to know who's looking ahead of this transition to make sure these important buildings not only remain in existence but continue as civic institutions and public amenities. Post offices have tended to be toward the very center of cities in prominent locations, and in some very small towns the post office practically is the city. The best use of the space into the future probably will not be sorting and distributing physical letters and parcels. But what will it be?
Because post offices are federal property, their resale is governed differently than just any other historic building. The federal General Service Administration is in charge of the process, called the Real Property Disposal progam, and they have the obligation to offer the sale to other government agencies, non-profits, or homeless use before putting it out for a general auction. According to the GSA, about a third of the $3 billion in sales has, in fact, been transferred to such "public benefit" uses.
Ever since reading his posts, I've been rummaging around for some post office adaptive reuses that have maintained public use in some way. Here's a few I've found:
- The Old Post Office in St. Louis was redeveloped over the last decade by a public-private partnership and is now used as Webster University, a state Court of Appeals, plenty of retail and food service, some non-profit offices, and other offices for public agencies.
- Of course, there's the Moynihan Station. With a boost from stimulus funds, the old Farley Post Office will be redeveloped into a train station in New York City.
- A former post office in Natchez, MS was converted into an African American History Museum in the 1990's.
- A former post office in Devil's Lake, ND is being used as a heritage center and for special community events.
- A former post office in Charlottesville, VA is in use as a downtown library.
- This is a little different, but the U.S. Courthouse and Dallas Post Office will retain the post office on the ground floor and reuse upper floors for a hotel, office, or condos.
- The U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Brooklyn had always contained both USPS and courts, but in the 1990's the building was renovated to take space away from the shrinking post office and reallocate it to the expanding courts.
- A couple of former post offices are being used for school administration offices, but I can't find any reuses as a school itself (probably because of tight requirements for school design).