Greater City Providence
U.S. Post Office

Postal Service studies feasibility of closing Kennedy Plaza Post Office

U.S. Post Office

U.S. Post Office in Kennedy Plaza. Image from Google Street View.

There will be a hearing at 444 Westminster Street (Planning Dept. building at the corner of Empire) on October 12 at 6:30pm for the public to provide feedback to the Postal Service on the closing of the Kennedy Plaza branch.

Several area businesses received surveys today from the US Postal Service regarding the closure of the main Post Office in Kennedy Plaza. The “discontinuance feasibility study” evaluates the branch’s operations, how to “continue to meet customers’ retail needs, improve productivity, increase efficiency, and cut costs.”

The letter suggests customers will be able to use the internet, stamps by mail, phone, and fax (fax!?) services and also offers the “Providence Post Office,” i.e. the facility on Charles Street as an alternative including for PO Box customers (of which Greater City: Providence is one).

With the Thayer Street and Weybosset Hill branches also on the list of possible closures, downtown Providence will be left without a Post Office. Forcing people to use time and energy to drive or take a bus to Charles Street hardly seems productive or efficient to me.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • This discussion got started in another thread before this one was posted. Copying some posts over here for clarity.

    Andy September 30, 2011 at 3:44 pm
    Why can’t we just have functional and uniform stops? Why does it have to be artsy-fartsy? What will the long term maintenance effects and costs be with having individualized structures assuming they will not be built exactly the same and from the same materials?

    Also, just found out today that the USPS is seeking to close the only two downtown Post Offices (Financial Annex at Kennedy Plaza and Weybosset Hill). How will this effect the pedestrian experience when individuals will have to take more than several different busses to reach the suburban office off of Charles Street and what will the loss in foot-traffic mean for nearby businesses, banks and residents?

    brick September 30, 2011 at 4:07 pm
    RIPTA has guidelines for materials to address the notions you list, Andy. If you clickthrough to the discussion about the Wayland stop, the designer of said lists a bunch of the requirements.

    Also, the “suburban” post office is a little less than a mile from Kennedy Plaza. It is about same distance as the distance between, say, Bryant Park and Central Park. I get that it is less convenient and I get that it is fashionable to call anything but DownCity the suburbs, but it is hardly a suburban location.

    A better complaint would be that maybe the city could enhance the pedestrian experience on Charles St. from Smith to where the Post Office is. The only reason it feels so long is that it is kind of a pedestrian desert.

    Peter Brassard September 30, 2011 at 4:18 pm
    Off subject

    Regarding post office closings, in some low populated areas around the country, post office functions-buying stamps, bringing letters and packages to be mailed, and post office boxes-have been shifted into private stores.

    Analogies would be the Citizens Bank branches in Stop & Shops or the pharmacy sections at a CVS, which are isolated from the main store.

    The same idea could be applied to urban central business districts. The postal service would eliminate the overhead of operating a facility, yet the public could have a location to obtain most of the same services, and a shop owner would get extra foot traffic and probably some additional income for operating the location.

    What Downcity retail establishment would be a good candidate for such a venue?

  • @Brick
    Yes, the Charles Street location is suburban territory for the majority of Providence residents, in design, access and livability it is not a convenient location for those of us who walk, bike and take public transit. Try it in the middle of winter.

    This is a great example of the recent GC:PVD post: The important difference between a road and a street

    Why put the expense into creating an “enhanced pedestrian” way when we already have it downtown at the doorstep of Kennedy Plaza and other core institutions?

    Have you walked from Bryant Park to Central Park? Its not fun as a daily routine, besides, NYC has more going for it in a block then we do in a mile. The reason it works in NYC is because there are other conveniences along the way. Also, NYC has neighborhood P.O.’s. — I used to live there.

    Fashionable? Since when has gutting our core infrastructure become “fashionable?” Lets just move everything that makes a city out our city. Personally, I live in the city because of the convenience.

  • @Peter Brassard
    I do enjoy the idea of the “Village Post Office” and recently saw this video online a few weeks ago regarding just that:

    There are several locations I could think of to fulfill these roles in downtown. However, my real concern would be focused on that of a future use of the current downtown Financial Annex. Condos? Parking lot?

    I agree that the USPS needs to do something considering its debt and I’m sure downsizing and selling off property is a wise thing. What then happens to communities?

  • It has been fashionable to call something that is not the suburbs the suburbs just because it isn’t right DownCity. My language was clear. My point is that less than a mile from the city core is not suburban considering the density all the way to that point. It is not in the core but it is hardly suburban.

    @peter – Why is the onus on me to answer hypothetical office worker questions. Unless we think the survey is just a public relations exercise (I guess I understand that cynicism) won’t it give the USPS the real answer to the question? The whole reason they even have to think about the rationalization of offices is that far fewer people use them than they did even 5 years ago, nevermind before the widespread adoption of email and competition for small parcels and letters from FedEx and UPS.

    Regardless, whether it is the Post Office themselves with a small retail version of what they have now, or if someone opens up a private version, if there is demand and it is expressed it will typically be filled.

  • Isn’t the current Annex in the U.S. Federal Building? I’m pretty sure that building is still largely full. During the building boom the Feds talked about building elsewhere (they were one of the rumors for the Shooters site at one point or another IIRC) to consolidate the offices in this building and ones they lease throughout DownCity. So they would probably use whatever space the Post Office uses to house another department that is currently leasing.

  • sub·ur·banAdjective/səˈbÉ™rbÉ™n/
    1. Of or characteristic of a suburb: “suburban life”.
    2. Contemptibly dull and ordinary.
    “suburban” is usually defined for statistical purposes as any place in a metropolitan area outside the central city.

    But I digress.

  • Actually, the Postal Service as a business is doing just fine. While first class letter volume is down, bulk mail remains strong and internet shopping has been a boon to the post office. If you don’t need your package there next day guaranteed, the Postal Service is by far the best bet for price. Ebayers are all about the post office.

    For some reason, Congress wants the Post Office out of business. Congress’ ridiculous retiree policies are bankrupting the Postal Service.

    I can’t imagine that the hope that private alternatives that funnel money to Congressional campaigns could have anything to do with the move to kill the Postal Service.

  • And Charles Street from Randall Square to Walmart is by intentional mid-century design and zoning decisions, absolutely suburban.

  • @jef,
    When I was doing work for LL Bean they moved to a hybrid private/public system to achieve the free shipping service and I would guess many other retailers have done the same. So the packages leave the distribution center on fedex / ups trucks and get shipped to the USPS distribution center where they get distributed by the local postman.

    It essentially reduced the overall cost as the private cos used their capital equipment (planes, tech, trucks) more efficiently with less local distribution costs and the USPS used their strong local distribution but less transport costs.

  • Here’s what closing the Kennedy Plaza post office (and Thayer and Weybosset Hill branches) does to me, one of the tens of thousands of people who live and work or have easy access to Kennedy Plaza:

    I have two post office boxes at Kennedy Plaza, one personal, one for this site. Currently, during my half hour lunch break, I can walk from my office in the Jewelry District, go to the post office and take care of whatever business I need to do, grab something to eat on the fly, and get back to my desk.

    If I had to go to Charles Street, walking is 3.4 miles and would take me 1 hour and 10 minutes roundtrip. By bus is 58 minutes roundtrip if I give myself 10 minutes to get into the post office and back out (distance and times according to Google).

    It is also 440 yards from the front door of the post office to the nearest crosswalk, across 4 lanes of highspeed traffic to the nearest inbound bus stop. For comparison, it is 440 yard from the front door of the Kennedy Plaza post office to Lupos.

    So unless I use vacation time, I cannot go to the post office during lunch.

    If I go after work. It would take an hour and 16 minutes for me to get from my office to the post office, allow 10 minutes to do my business at the post office and travel the 440 yards to the inbound bus stop, and get to my house on Federal Hill. It would also cost me $4.75 in bus fare, because it will take 3 buses, and 1.3 miles of that trip would be on foot.

    If I go on Saturday… oh snap, the post office on Charles Street is closed on Saturday.

    So, if the post office were to close, I’d probably try to get a mailbox at the UPS Store on Dorrance Street, online they won’t tell me how much that costs, but I would be giving my money to a private company, just like Congress wants me to do.

    Regardless of if I keep a PO Box at Charles Street, or pay for a UPS Store box, I’ll have to change my address, new business cards, contact all my correspondences and let them know… More money to private businesses per Congress.

    That’s just me.

    Let’s say I work in an office Downcity and part of my job is going to the post office. If I don’t have a car or commute on bus to my job, then I can’t get to the post office anymore. If I do have a car, is my job going to reimburse me for driving to the post office? Probably no. If I can no longer get to the post office, do I lose my job because I can no longer perform one of my duties?

    Let’s say some private business takes on this work. Has anyone ever been to the Kennedy Plaza post office during the day? The line is out the door, people are lined up with piles of packages to send (those Ebay people), this is not something a convenience store or cafe picks up on the side like Cafe La France selling MBTA tickets at the train station, the Kennedy Plaza post office is a major operation.

  • “And Charles Street from Randall Square to Walmart is by intentional mid-century design and zoning decisions, absolutely suburban.”

    So true. “Suburbia in the City” I have long called it. Exhibit A, the Marriott. Shrubbery makes it park-like! What were they thinking? From the State House to the Post Office, Stop and Shop, Walmart and beyond, it is all superblocks, parking lots, and narrow grimy sidewalks (most never plowed) inches away from speeding traffic.

  • I think it is essential that the downtown core of a real city have a post office, it generates foot traffic, provides a service, and all interested in seeing a successful downtown (Grow-Smart etc) should campaign for it. Its bad enough that National Grid has turned its back on downtown by ending customer service in their downtown building (when it was Providence Gas they had pay stations, showrooms, customer services, and started Grow-Smart to help revive the city, but now National Grid, really international grid, doesn’t care. I live in North Providence, but like to come downtown at times to run errands and stuff, but if they keep closing off that opportunty I’d rarely come any more.

  • I am going to guess that one of the issues with the businesses using the post office downtown (or the one on weybossett hill) is that it is a limited use PO. For example, to send something via bulk/non profit mail, you still have to go to Charles Street and endure what can sometimes be a very trying customer service experience.

    However, having worked downtown for several years, I made excellent use of the PO down there (and Weybossett Hill) for overnight mail, and buying stamps and registered mail and the like, and find it hard to believe that one, if not both, of those post offices are pretty essential to the businesses of downtown.

    Certainly if it is decided to close those facilities down, it is an excellent business opportunity for someone to open a Mailboxes etc type place with post boxes and other features…

  • @Jen

    Would be great to have one of those 24/hr Post Office Kiosks at the downtown location OR at various “village post office locations” — i.e. Providence Place, Gourmet Heaven, The Arcade, the Convention Center, etc.

    In addition, combining the Weybosset Hill and Thayer Street services to the Financial Annex building, if they were to close those two locations, seems to make the most sense and would force foot traffic to the downtown core district. It might be good for all businesses between points A and points B– sorta like a pedestrian equivalent to an economic stimulus that future streetcars seek to provide by driving foot traffic passed businesses that would otherwise go unserviced.

    The walk from Thayer to Kennedy Plaza or Broadway to Kennedy Plaza is much more pleasant, convenient and accessible than trying to make way over to Charles Street- not to mention on bus lines and about a 10 minute walk, 2 minute bike ride from those points to the plaza.

    I really enjoy the idea of bringing back (or at least maintaining) essential services to any downtown. However, there’s no reason we can’t have the Charles Street location as a distribution hub AND the Financial Annex as a major drop-off and pickup hub either.

  • Just realized something: if the building goes, it’ll be far easier to use the East Side Tunnel to bring mainline rail service to Kennedy Plaza. An option with fewer takings would require trains to thread between the post office and the building across Exchange and Exchange Terrace, which is pretty easy for regional trains and harder for intercity trains (main problem: longer platforms). Pretty far down the list of priorities, both for the building and for train service, but I’m just throwing this fact out there.

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