Last month the USPS Office of Inspector General issued a report about excess space at postal facilities. Having identified nearly 400 properties with over 1.2 million square feet of unused space, the OIG recommended that the Postal Service look for ways to repurpose this space “to improve utilization of federal properties, lower the number of excess and underutilized properties, and improve the cost effectiveness and efficiency of the real estate portfolio.”
For the past year, a feasibility assessment at Carnegie Mellon University has been working on a similar challenge concerning excess space at post offices. Entitled “Outposts for Community Resilience,” the project focuses on how to align excess postal space with community benefits and how to leverage the strategic location of postal facilities to support the needs of the places where they are located.
Led by Executive Fellow Andrew Butcher, a team of interdisciplinary graduate students and faculty advisors have been exploring the central question: “How can postal networks and underutilized postal facilities be envisioned as civic community hubs?”
The project has been assessing how to use post offices and other post facilities as locations for place-based community development activities. These include a range of smart and connected technologies such as distributed energy generation and storage; food and health services access; nodes for broadband or wireless internet; air quality sensors, and even traffic and road condition analysis.