Once again, Seward and Longfellow residents have a working neighborhood post office with the reopening of the Minnehaha Station on May 30, three years to the day that it was destroyed amid unrest in the days following George Floyd’s murder.
The station, located at the same site as the previous post office, is at the northeast corner of 27th Avenue S. and E. 31st Street. It will take over the remaining postal operations that were housed for the past two and a half years in the old Kmart building, located in the middle of Nicollet Avenue just north of Lake Street.
The U.S. Postal Service took a while to get the Minnehaha Station fully up and running. In the first two weeks since it reopened, they were only distributing and receiving mail. However, retail services opened up the week of June 12.
The opening of the Minnehaha Station clears the way for the U.S. Postal Service to vacate the Kmart building, which the city expects will be closed by June 30. After that, the city will start the eight-month-long process that will culminate with the building being razed, and ultimately the reconnection of Nicollet Avenue, which has long been disconnected by the now-vacant retail store.
The new station looks different from the outside compared to the old one. What was once a brick-faced building is now clad in a precast concrete facade, painted to reflect the colors of the postal service. The layout inside, however, remains mostly unchanged aside from a couple of minor changes.
“You don’t see what’s going on in the back like you used to,” said Susan, who declined to provide her last name. The warehouse behind the counter, where postal workers sort mail, is now obscured by a wall painted red with numbers denoting the zip code it serves—55406. Susan also noticed fewer counters—two now, with one that is wheelchair-accessible, instead of the three adult-height counters that were there before. The TV in the old post office, which probably dated back to when the station was built in 1970, is also gone.
In the front of the building, the station now has two sets of doors—one pair that opens inward, the other pair that opens outward, perhaps to facilitate long lines. By the doors, the plaque that lists the name of the station and the city it serves—Minnehaha, Minnesota—reflects a nonexistent Minnesota city.
The station has six parking spaces, compared to the five it had at the old site. And the site also has fewer bike racks, which can only handle four bicycles, down from five at the old station.
Other changes are more subtle. For decades, the postal service leased the land for the station from Ehlen Associates, a Bloomington-based company. They sold the land to the postal service in October 2022. Two years prior, the agency considered moving to another site and solicited public comment on the move. The postal service decided in February 2021 to remain at the current site.
Residents who needed to send mail while the Minnehaha post office was out of service had to go to a post office on Bloomington Avenue, about a mile to the west. For Susan, it was not convenient. “I’m glad the [Minnehaha] post office is open again,” she said. “Two years or three years is hard when you have no other way to send or receive your mail.”
However, those who needed to get mail from a P.O. box in the old post office had to go to the old Kmart building at Lake and Nicollet. For Robert Wilkinson, who lives in Longfellow, it’s one of the few reasons why he came to the neighborhood surrounding the Kmart.
“I get most of my mail at a P.O. box. I come here almost every day or every other day,” said Wilkinson in an interview at the post office inside the Kmart several months ago. “I won’t keep coming to this neighborhood that much unless I come to eat or shop or something.”
Although the post office is now out of the Kmart building, the city doesn’t plan to demolish it right away. “There is an eight-month process from a building being vacant to demolishing the building,” said city spokesperson Sarah McKenzie, adding they expect to tear down the Kmart building next March. The process includes testing the building for hazardous and regulated materials, submitting the project for public bid, city council approval of a contractor, and remediation of hazardous and regulated materials.
Once the Kmart building is demolished, the city anticipates it will take another year to reconnect the two segments of Nicollet Avenue. They plan to begin designing the layout of the street this summer, with the city council and mayor approving the layout at the end of the year, so that a redesigned Nicollet Avenue can reopen in 2026.