A line of customers snaked around the window lobby at the Walnut Street post office building, waiting to be helped. But the problem is nothing new. Columbia post offices have been facing space problems since the early 1990s.
Because Columbia has not been given authorization by the U.S. Postal Service to build another site, the Walnut Street building is undergoing renovations to make it more user-friendly, in addition to looking more modern.
“Our customer base has outgrown our lobby space,” said Carla Mayfield, supervisor at the post office. “In order to have better customer service, we needed to make our lobby more user-friendly.”
The major changes will occur in the lobby between the glass doors, Mayfield said.
“We will expand the window lobby to the first glass doors,” she said. The Automated Postal Center is scheduled to move into the box lobby and a new service, passport photos, will be offered where the Automated Postal Center was located.
“That will make it more convenient for the customers,” Mayfield said. The post office offers passports, but not the accompanying photos.
Mayfield said additional renovations were a “domino effect” caused by the lobby redecorations.
Mayfield said the changes began “behind the scenes” this summer with cleaning, repainting and electrical refurbishing. Post office officials are hoping the project will be completed by late November, Mayfield said.
Changes are also in motion for the box lobby. Walking through the front doors, customers will see a split between past and present, with some walls still covered with wood paneling and others painted white. The ceiling will be lowered to make it more energy efficient.
Post office boxes on the immediate right will soon be moved to the hallway on the right side of the building. New boxes will also be installed, but the number and sizes haven’t been determined.
And there is a need for the more boxes, Mayfield said. “We have boxes available here and at the mall, and they stay rented all the time,” she said.
Frequent customers are happy with the adjustments.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Columbia resident Rosalynd Young said. “It’s definitely a hassle when you have to wait in line.”
But even with the long lines, the service is always great, Young said.
The post office’s attempts to become more user-friendly began in September when officials expanded the office’s hours to 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.