Turn the post office into the library

I’ve been quiet for a while, sorry, lots of stuff going on. Today’s topic: The post office re-use debate.

The post office has long been a staple of Mankato’s downtown. It’s served as a retail presence for USPS, It’s served as a landmark and a reminder of what Mankato used to be.

Now, however, the post office has said that they are going to vacate the building in favor of a more modern facility (I believe they do mail processing as well, hence the need for modernization.) This is great, I complain about government inefficiency a lot so if the postal service doesn’t see that it’s worth it to be there anymore, so be it.

However, this is where we can step in and say, you’re not allowed to tear down that building.

Now, I don’t think anyone would because it’s on the NRHP and there would be hell to pay from the community.

The City Center Partnership is trying to aggregate ideas on how to reuse this building. There have been a lot of idea thrown around on their mind mixer site ranging from a Trader Joe’s (…ok?) to a detox center (…ok?) Everyone has a different opinion on how the building should be used and thankfully, no one is seriously advocating for it’s demolition.

Here’s my pitch: Move the library in there.

Why? Well let’s break it down. Libraries, while they’re a great public investment, pretty much do nothing for downtowns or tax rolls. You can argue that they are a trip generator, but I would say I’d need to see some data to believe that. Who cares though, I’m still arguing it should stay downtown.

The library sits on a really, REALLY great piece of land downtown. Right across the bridge on a similar size plot of land, Mike Brennan is planning on building Bridge Plaza. A high end mixed use building that will add a lot to the downtown.

1-Bridge-Plaza-Rendering

So why not there? The post office building would actually allow for an expansion of library services, the building is bigger, more historic, and definitely more attractive.

And again the size of the lot is crucial. You can just about fit both sides of South Front on that piece of property. with a little bit of room for parking.  Crazy, right?

library-lot

Here’s the other hangup for the post office re-use. It’s going to cost a lot. The ability for you to secure money for a Trader Joe’s from state or federal accounts is…well…it’s not going to happen. However, if you can say we’re putting a library in there, it’s going to increase the chances.

Yeah, yeah I know. There are people out there wearing their “Government sucks” hats and want no tax money to saving it and generally I would agree with this sentiment, but it’s important to save historic buildings like this by any means necessary.

One last time I’m going to go back to that piece of land. We need to focus on rebuilding downtown, it’s the most sustainable part of town and it’s the highest yielding per acre and with the way that Mankato has been going, I bet you could find someone to buy that plot of land. Better yet, divide it up and sell it to multiple developers under the condition they build downtown style buildings (think old town.)

I whipped up a quick idea of what this could look like using downtown and oldtown buildings already existing in Mankato. When it’s all said and done, you could fit 23 buildings into that plot of land, with room for parking and a small public space/square. Even if you took out a few buildings for more parking, you would still have a really quality space producing a lot of revenue for the city and attracting visitors.

library-plot

There you have it, that’s my pitch. Save the building, use it for a public good, and put some money back on the tax rolls with new downtown development.

Oh, if it wasn’t clear, we would need to tear down the existing library… so take that into account.

UPDATE 5.7.2015

Ok, so the discussion is getting going again and I’ve been told by my secret lobbying group that my idea is completely unfeasible and has been scrapped as an option by the powers that be.

I don’t really care, this is still one of the best options around. Below are some of my thoughts.

“We don’t have a buyer lined up” Who cares. 

Yeah, we don’t have anyone lined up to buy the library site, but if we were to put this as a priority, I think it would be easy to find one. Especially because there’s rumors about a multi-story building going in where Little Stars Daycare is right now. There’s a buyer out there, I guarantee it.

We want to blow a ton of money on sports

I hope I don’t have to fill you in, but if I do… Anyway, we want to spend a bunch of money on sports, at the same time, we don’t know where the money is going to come from for one of the most historic buildings in Mankato. We need to prioritize this.

The library building is ugly

I mean, it is, I’m sorry. I didn’t design it. It’s a one level, 60’s style box (but kasota stone!) It just would be cool to have it in an architecturally punctuated building.

It’s in a terrible location that’s actually pretty unwalkable

Both roads that flank the library parcel are heavily traveled, wide stroads. One of the most distinctive memories I have in my LIFE is watching an elderly woman get HIT BY A CAR crossing main street from the City Center hotel to the library. People want to cross there and it’s dangerous to let them. The new location would offer a far less chaotic traffic environment.

Federal and state money

Here’s the thing, you will come across no more noble cause than preserving a historic building and integrating the library into said structure. I’m essentially advocating for the two things that made this country great. Cool buildings and books (don’t quote me on that.)

If you want an opportunity for outside funds, this is it. The restoration of a historic building along with a public service is a shoe in for government monies.

I think I’ve made my point, no?

 

About Matthias Leyrer

Matthias Leyrer is a resident of Mankato looking to restore a fraction of its old glory. He writes about the economic, aesthetic, practical and financial issues facing the city of Mankato going forward.