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Seen any vacant post offices lately?

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Officials with the United States Postal Service operate one of the largest commercial property operations in the country, including thousands of acres of vacant land that just sits there, according to the USPS Inspector General.

In fact, the Post Office owns 33,000 facilities nationwide with more than 280 million square feet of space. But the Post Office has also been downsizing its workforce and upgrading its technological capabilities. Such moves usually result in the need for less space, compared to traditional or conventional service businesses.

So the USPS IG has opened a probe into how much vacant or unused property is owned by the Post Office and whether there are ways of turning such assets to financial advantage.

"Opportunities may exist for the Postal Service to optimize excess facility and land space (either owned or leased) that is vacant. The OIG has identified instances where the Postal Service continues to rent vacant leased properties because the leases do not contain early termination clauses. Such clauses would allow the Postal Service to terminate leases early without penalty," the USPS IG said today.

"The OIG has also identified unused vacant land parcels the Postal Service has 'land banked.' Land banking is the acquisition of land in anticipation of long-term future needs or expansion of services rather than for a specific project. The purpose of land banking is to gain control of land in high cost or land scarce areas when it becomes available," the IG said.

As part of the study, the IG is asking for suggestions from postal and government employees, as well as members of the public:

"We want to hear from you! Do you know of any vacant Postal Service properties (facilities or land) in your area? Is it better for the Postal Service to sell these properties now to generate revenue or hold onto the properties because the value may increase? What else do you think the Postal Service can do with its vacant properties?"

Responses can be posted on the IG's web site.

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