The Postal Service’s untapped real estate fortune

In response, the USPS has requested a taxpayer bailout that would include $25 billion to navigate the current crisis, $25 billion in loans to keep operations afloat and $25 billion for unmet capital needs, including $11 billion for a fleet of new mail trucks and $14 billion to spruce up all those under-maintained retail storefronts and distribution centers.

Each passing month without a long-term fix puts more pressure on the USPS to make the most of the assets it has. Yet the Postal Service’s greatest asset — its real estate portfolio — has gone largely undiscussed. Most post offices are leased, but the USPS still owns more than 8,400 facilities, ranging from hole-in-the-wall post offices to massive sorting centers. Altogether, its portfolio encompasses nearly 200 million square feet of interior space and 900 million square feet of land.

Many of these properties occupy prominent locations in some of the United States’ most lucrative real estate markets. Yet USPS facilities often sit squat and surrounded by surface parking lots, a product of onerous agency minimum parking requirements, even where most people get around by foot, cab or public transportation. To the extent that the USPS could encourage the more productive use of its valuable real estate — such as by allowing new residential buildings to rise above brand new ground-floor USPS facilities — the agency may be sitting on an untapped gold mine.

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