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What comes next for south Minneapolis’ recently destroyed post offices?

The USPS Lake Street Station
MinnPost photo by Henry Pan
The USPS Lake Street Station is boarded up and in ruins after it was destroyed by fire amid unrest in light of George Floyd's murder. The Lake Street Station opened to the public in 1977.

Lorie Shaull was filming the U.S. Postal Service’s burned down Lake Street station when she happened upon a couple trying to retrieve their stimulus check.

The check, along with the couple’s P.O. box, was destroyed. On the evening of May 29, two post offices in South Minneapolis, the Lake Street station on East 31st Street and Minnehaha station on 27th Ave South, were destroyed amid uprisings following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. 

The incidents are currently under investigation by local authorities and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. 

The stations, both built in the 1970s, were deemed to be total losses, according to Nicole Hill, the customer relations coordinator in the St. Paul Postmaster’s Office, but it was too early to assess the cost of the damage. The Postal Service is currently “assessing our options for razing the buildings,” she said.  

While most of the mail inside the two stations was retrieved before they burned, mail inside P.O. boxes was not, and the couple Shaull ran in to while filming weren’t the only people who lost something. Cindy Pratt, a psychologist, lost checks when her Minnehaha station P.O. box was destroyed in the fire. Lift Garage, a nonprofit in South Minneapolis that provides low-cost car repairs to low-income clients, also lost donations that were in its P.O. box at Minnehaha station, according to the group’s executive director, Cathy Heying.

Allison Anne, a Minneapolis collage and mail artist, was using their Lake Street station P.O. box to accept submissions for the Twin Cities Collage Collective’s Open Call when the building was destroyed by fire. “I think the furthest-traveling piece that was at the post office at the time of the fire was from the mail artist Ryosuke Cohen in Japan,” Anne said.

Yet it’s more than just mail and P.O. boxes that were lost with the destruction of the buildings. DFL Rep. Jim Davnie, in whose Minneapolis district the Minnehaha station was located, said that the post offices were also a “resource for money orders for low-income residents and the unbanked.” Now, with nearby check cashing establishments and banks destroyed, Davnie says that the neighborhood is left with no banking options while also facing a lack of grocery and pharmacy options.

The destruction of the stations has also disrupted the ability for people to access medications, and Davnie says that the Post Office is working with those who may have lost medical supplies in the fires.

The USPS Minnehaha Station opened in 1970.
MinnPost photo by Henry Pan
The USPS Minnehaha station opened in 1970.
The stations were community assets in other ways too, said Ian Taylor, Jr., a south Minneapolis resident. “It was nice to have a post office in relative walking distance,” to send letters, packages, and cards to friends and family outside of Minnesota. 

With both stations destroyed, the facilities’ operations have been moved outside their respective neighborhoods, which has made accessing postal services more challenging for those who rely on public transit or are vulnerable to the coronavirus. 

Pratt, who said she is immunocompromised and therefore has a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, said she has not been inside a store in two months. But she still managed to pick up her mail at the Minnehaha station. “The door was always open,” Pratt said. “I would wait until no one was in there, then go in and open my box.”

Operations for the Minnehaha facility have been relocated to the U.S. Postal Service’s downtown station, on North 1st Street, while operations at the Lake Street station have been relocated to the Loring station, at the corner of North 12th Street and Hawthorne Avenue.

The Postal Service does not have a timeframe for reopening the destroyed post office stations. When locating stations, Hill says the service considers customer convenience as well as “population density and service requirements,” which include the number of deliveries, the volume of mail, and how the delivery routes are designed. The size of a potential site is also a factor. 

Shortly after the Lake Street Station was destroyed, someone spraypainted a message on the southern wall.
MinnPost photo by Henry Pan
Shortly after the Lake Street station was destroyed, someone spray-painted a message on the southern wall.
In the meantime, Hill said people who lost mail should contact the sender to have it replaced. Hill also encourages postal customers to sign up for Informed Delivery — a free service that gives people the ability to digitally preview their mail — so that they can “assess what they are missing” in the future. 

For those who lost packages that were insured, Hill asks customers to open a claim through the USPS Claims Process

In the meantime, many look forward to the day that both stations reopen. Said Taylor: “I hope it does get rebuilt, and that people working there are taken care of.” 

Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Bill Lindeke on 06/10/2020 - 11:07 am.

    Great job on this article!

  2. Submitted by Richard Owens on 06/10/2020 - 11:35 am.

    Did the USPS own those two buildings, or were they leasing them?

    Of course they should be rebuilt as soon as possible.

    Congress must be forced to make sure the USPS has the funds to expand services to these communities, without the absurd idea that it must all be done at a profit. If Republicans want everything to be privately owned they must be persuaded to understand not every human activity should be designed primarily to make money.

    Congress has been trying to hurt the Postal Workers Union and force the USPS to pre-pay pensions and tell them how to run their “business” while meddling and passing rules and regulations that are designed to hurt the PO.

    Between Betsy DeVos and Trumpian political hostility, two of America’s most important distributed systems to help ALL AMERICANS, public education and the US Mail, will be counted in the destruction and spreading carnage that Republican leadership brings.

  3. Submitted by Denise Arambadjis on 06/10/2020 - 02:54 pm.

    I am so sorry to see these two post offices destroyed. I used to live in 55406 zip and I owned a business and still own the property For almost 40 years in 55408 I know these post offices well. As the years went by and the surrounding neighborhood had more residents who English was a second language.mI always marveled at how busy the 31st Av office had become and how the staff was always so patient. So many immigrants with limited English trying to mail packages back to their homelands. The staff patiently helping them to better wrap and secure the packages, fill out the paperwork and custom forms. Never rushed or brusque. You might wait awhile to be served, but the staff was always professional and caring. I salute the staff at both post offices.

  4. Submitted by Joe Smith on 06/10/2020 - 05:04 pm.

    What will happen is simple, taxpayers will pay more money and the Post Office will be reopened. Same thing with multiple buildings throughout the Twin Cities. With close to a billion dollars worth of damage from the riots, somehow the taxpayer will get the short end of the stick and pay more. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/11/2020 - 09:02 am.

      If we can defund the police and get a new system in that actually protects Minneapolis residents, we can avoid those expenses in the future.

    • Submitted by Richard Owens on 06/11/2020 - 09:21 am.

      Taxpayers have been shelling out millions of dollars to atone for police mis-conduct. MILLIONS every year.

      [2 years ago]
      “…Many of the alleged victims over the 2007-17 period are minorities. Five of the six largest payouts were to people of color, and the Metro Gang Strike Force payouts were made mostly to Latinos and blacks, according to Randy Hopper, the attorney who brought the class-action suit.”

      “A common thread for the surge in payouts is the proliferation of surveillance cameras, bodycams, patrol car cameras and cellphones, which can sometimes provide an alternative narrative to the written reports filed by police.”

    • Submitted by Jeanette Blankenship on 06/11/2020 - 10:49 am.

      The post office does not receive any taxpayer money. It is a common misperception. However, because it is a public service, the federal government places restrictions on it. Such as how much the post office can charge for stamps, what days of the week they can operate, and what services it can offer. All postal employee salaries come solely from profits made, not from any tax payer money. The federal government’s requirement that the post office prefund its pension plan 75 years in advance (and for employees who have not even been born yet) has placed a heavy financial burden on the post office. Some believe such things have been done deliberately to cripple the post office so that it can more easily be privatized. If privatized, the likely outcome would be less service or more expensive service for some.
      The current mandate is that everyone have mail delivery at the same rates, no matter how remote, even if by boat or canyon mule. Those in rural or small town communities and those receiving mail to their door in suburban areas may be required to instead drive to a central group lock box or further town to pick up their own mail. This may cause difficulties to the many people receiving medications and other important necessities by mail. Privatization likely means profits are more important than great service. Understaffing and closing of some sorting facilities has already affected the expediency of mail. Hopefully the post office can be efficient and a great service without privatizing.

  5. Submitted by joe olson on 06/10/2020 - 05:26 pm.

    I wonder if Sullivan’s or K Mart, both now owned by the City would work as a temporary post office?

  6. Submitted by Nathan Johnson on 06/11/2020 - 09:04 am.

    The trend has been toward USPS leasing space rather than building new structures. With the glut of available commercial leasing space, perhaps they can setup shop somewhere else, quicker than we think.

  7. Submitted by Drew Gmitro on 06/11/2020 - 11:46 pm.

    Well it’s a shame, but I say let them lie in ruins, don’t rebuild, and let the people who destroyed them view their masterpiece for all of eternity. Let people move out to better places and those that believe in this destruction can look at it forever. Save the taxpayers money too as I hope the Federal Government doesn’t pay a dime to Minneapolis. Let Minneapolis taxpayers pay for the damages. Their mayor allowed this destruction and now he comes hat in hand to the rest of the country to pick up the tab??? ABSOLUTELY NOT. IT’S YOUR MESS. YOU CLEAN IT UP !!!! No bailouts for them.

    • Submitted by Richard Owens on 06/13/2020 - 11:41 am.

      Collective punishment is a lot easier than punishing only those who did the damage.

      A St. Paul white guy is under arrest for the precinct fire. Who else? The window-breaking at the Auto Parts store was also a White guy but with a hoody and mask. Hard to ID.

      You should know collective punishment is an Apartheid technique and violates everything our Constitution stands for.

      Vengeance ain’t justice. FYI

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