Upstate Business Journal

Faced with the need to cut costs, newspapers are divesting themselves of their most valuable assets — their properties

In today’s 21st-century digital climate, newspapers are looking for creative ways to cut costs that go beyond trimming staff and cutting page sizes.

July 28, 2017

by Sherry Jackson

Print is dead. Or so some say. In reality, the industry, like many others, is going through a massive transformation. Newspapers were once the primary — sometimes the only — form of communication and a mainstay of the community. Today, we get our news from a variety of sources, but community journalism is still here to stay. That means newspapers were (and still are) big business.

But in today’s 21st-century digital climate, newspapers are looking for creative ways to cut costs that go beyond trimming staff and cutting page sizes. Some are turning to the very properties that house their offices.

In years past, newspapers had a need for large printing presses and huge staffs, and many planted themselves in prime downtown locations on large pieces of land — in part as a declaration that they were important players in the community and in part to advertise their product. Now, newsrooms are outsourcing printing, and a downsized staff means a need for less space. So the question quickly arises: Why should they hold on to that big ol’ building on that valuable piece of land in the heart of downtown?

In the past few years, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, and even the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., where Frank Gannett started building his empire, have sold their properties and either moved newspaper staffs to less expensive office space in the suburbs or they’ve stayed put downtown in smaller, transformed digs.

Here’s a look at a few projects that are recycling the news.

Greenville News

Close to home in downtown Greenville, most everyone is aware of the Camperdown project that is turning the former home of the Greenville News into a mixed-use project with a 140-room AC Hotel, 750-space parking garage, 18 luxury condos, 217 apartments, 80,000 square feet of retail, and 150,000 square feet of office space. Local developer Centennial American Properties purchased the 4-acre property in 2015 from Gannett Co. Inc., owner of the Greenville News, for $13.25 million. The Greenville News building had been on the site since 1969.

Unlike many other papers who bolted downtown for the suburbs, The Greenville News chose to stay downtown, albeit in a new, smaller office building next door to their former spot on the corner of Main and Broad streets. The team moved in May 2017 into a four-story, 28,000-square-foot office building next door. Workers began demolishing the former building in June.

The former site of the Greenville News, demolished in June, will be incorporated into the mixed-use Camperdown development downtown. Rendering by Centennial American Properties.

Charlotte Observer

One of the biggest development projects in uptown Charlotte right now is a 33-story building being constructed on a portion of the 10-acre Charlotte Observer site, located a block away from Bank of America Stadium, the home of the NFL Carolina Panthers. The Observer has moved into a smaller, 68,500-square-foot space in the NASCAR Plaza building in Uptown, about half a mile from its former space.

Charlotte-based Lincoln Harris and Goldman Sachs purchased the former Observer site last year for $34.1 million, according to the Charlotte Observer. The former Observer building was demolished to make way for a mixed-use project, which is slated to have a parking deck, retail, restaurants, residences, a hotel, and approximately 845,000 square feet of office space. Bank of America is set to occupy about 500,000 square feet of that space, with the building being branded accordingly.

Post and Courier

In Charleston, property owned by The Post and Courier, one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in the United States, is under redevelopment into a 12-acre mixed-use project. Courier Square, which has a prime location on the peninsula of Historic Charleston, is expected to have office, restaurant, retail, and residential components all wrapping a central shared parking structure, according to architectural firm LS3P. The development surrounds the current The Post and Courier site, the lone newspaper that is holding on to its home base.

A five-story office building will have 69,000 square feet, including street-level retail and restaurant space fronting Meeting Street. The project is also expected to include 228 apartments, a 624-space parking deck, rooftop pool terrace, and pedestrian greenway.

The Courier Square development, a 12-acre mixed-use project in Historic Charleston located on property owned by The Post and Courier, will have office, restaurant, retail, and residential components. Rendering by LS3p.

Dallas Morning News

Earlier this year, The Dallas Morning News’ owner, the A. H. Belo Corporation, announced plans to relocate to new space downtown in the former Old Dallas Central Library on Commerce Street. The relocation will free up the paper’s current five-story structure, which opened in 1949 and sits on 8 acres on the southwest side of downtown Dallas. The site is valued at $25-$30 million or more and is currently being marketed for redevelopment. The Dallas Morning News reported it is asking award-winning architect GFF to study the potential reuse and redevelopment of the property at Young and Houston streets.

Washington Post

In 2015, The Washington Post left its grand site at 1150 15th St. NW, where the newspaper team had been located for 43 years. The Post had, at one time, operated in four buildings that spanned the block with more than 4,000 employees. In 1988, the printing operation moved to the suburbs. Now, the Post resides in a regular office building on K Street, which once housed mostly law firms. The four buildings at 1150 15th St. have been razed, making way for shiny new office buildings. Carr Properties acquired the properties in March 2014 for $157.8 million.

The Washington Post reported the buildings were “like a city of many neighborhoods,” said Donald Graham, then publisher and chairman of its parent company. Graham reportedly offered to sell the complex on 15th Street to Amazon.com owner Jeff Bezos, who purchased the newspaper, but Bezos “looked it over and decided they would do better not owning it.”

Miami Herald

Located bayfront in prime real estate, Miami Herald’s 12-acre headquarters had been referred to as “a grande dame” and was known by newspaper staff as “The Mothership.” After Malaysian casino giant Genting purchased the massive structure in 2011 for $236 million, the building was demolished in chunks, taking more than a year to complete. Herald staff moved to the suburban neighborhood of Doral, Fla.

The 12-acre site had been the home of the Miami Herald since 1963. When it opened, it was considered the largest and most advanced commercial building in Florida, reported the Herald. Genting had at one time pursued building a large casino resort on the property but met resistance from nearby residents and local government. The land sits vacant.

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