The US Postal Service announced in late July that it will consider shutting more than 3,600 of the 32,000 post offices across the country. Most of the locations targeted for closing are in rural locations, The New York Times reported, and generate little revenue.
The Postal Service "is expected to lose more than $8 billion this year," The Times said, and has seen mail volume drop by a fifth in the past four years.
For many communities, the closings may reduce activity in town or village centers. Even with diminishing mail volume, there are still many people who cross paths at the post office. The drawing power of post offices was recognized early by new urbanist developers such as Robert Davis in Seaside, Florida, and Buff Chace and Douglas Storrs in Mashpee, Massachusetts.
When Mashpee Commons was being built in the 1980s, Chace and Storrs included a small post office in it to bring a steady flow of people into their mixed-use center. At Seaside, Davis built a tiny Classical building near the beach, to provide postal service.
An article in the August 2 issue of The Guardian, in Great Britain, lamented the General Services Administration's recent decision to put the downtown post office of Modesto, California (population 201,000), on the auction block. "Like so many other postal facilities, the Renaissance-style palazzo had long served as an anchor for downtown stores of the California town, a public space where citizens met to exchange news as well as transact business in an ennobling lobby of polished travertine and marble beneath murals of local farming activities," wrote Gray Brechin.
Brechin noted that in an effort to end the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration built more than 1,100 post offices, "distinguished by fine architecture, materials and detailing, as well as by a lavish programme of public art that, for the first time, reflected back to patrons and workers their regional identity."
The Times said that according Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, some services, such as selling stamps and shipping flat-rate packages, may be offered instead at drug stores and grocery stores.
The Hill, a Washington, DC, periodical, reported that on August 8, Oregon's Democratic Congressional delegation urged Donahoe to ensure that small towns still have reasonable access to post offices. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio,and Kurt Schrader said the cuts being contemplated by the Postal Service might be too aggressive and might leave some towns without alternatives.
A website called Save the Post Office presents reports and commentary on the planned closings.