Supermarkets Can Save The World
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The Post Office is in a financial crunch. Postmaster General John Potter wants to cease Saturday mail delivery and shut down some underused post offices. Part of the shut-down process he proposed would integrate post offices into new supermarket developments. First, it was flower shops and pharmacies, then banks, Starbucks, RedBox, and now the post office is looking for prized real estate inside supermarkets.
It seems as though supermarkets are slowly turning into one-stop shop. For locations where a giant Costco warehouse doesn't make sense, supermarkets could become the place where a family parks its car, enters a building and gets an afternoon worth of errands done without having to drive anywhere else. As this becomes the normal design model, supermarkets could turn in the 21st century version of the ancient Roman forums.
Early Rome saw society develop government offices and urban dwellings around the city's main forum. This large open-air central plaza became the go-to marketplace for fresh produce, pre-made goods and creative ideas.
Near USC, the post office has a station on Vermont between 36th Place and Jefferson Boulevard. Two blocks east, off of Jefferson, sits a Superior Grocers supermarket. With USC's master plan calling for razing the University Village shopping center that holds Superior, it makes perfect sense to include a post office station within the redeveloped plaza.
Back on Vermont, the existing post office space could be turned over to a housing developer. USC could bring more student housing closer to campus not only by building apartments atop the University Village marketplace, but also on the land currently housing the post office.
The suggestion by Potter that the USPS could serve the American people better by re-inventing the post office does not make sense near USC.
As Potter notes, the average post office serves 600 patrons a week, but a normal supermarket sees 20,000 people come through its sliding doors. They are also open longer hours and seven days a week. Placing post offices inside grocery stores is not a new idea; it's already been done in the Netherlands and Utah.
Throughout South Los Angeles, the dearth of fresh fruits and vegetables has been cause for much concern. Resolutions by the Los Angeles City Council have sought to limit or improve small convenience stores. But now the post office could present a more lasting solution., by converting their land from federal to municipal and building supermarkets. Post offices near existing supermarkets could again be demolished in favor of affordable housing developments.
In middle-class, suburban neighborhoods supermarkets become a space where people can run into each other and talk about their families, brag about their children and share the latest neighborhood gossip. These same people first run into each on the soccer fields and later down the road over and over in the grocery store aisles or check-out lines. These bonds are the ones that bring communities closer together.
Supermarkets could have the same effect in poorer, urban neighborhoods. The more these markets are built to push the sales of fresh and healthy foods and the more services from banking to mailing that are squeezed into these grocery stores--the more people are going to see reason to visit them regularly. It's a benefit for all involved.
According to Potter, the post office already has a few locations inside Office Depot stores. South L.A. does not have a glaring need for Office Depot stores, but it couldn't hurt to add a few more places for people to acquire quality food, necessities and legitimate services at reasonable prices.
All the while supermarkets could become the place for a community to talk news, sports and entertainment, neighborhood councils to meet and parents to brag about their children with neighbors. A new kind of town square for the 21st century.