The Equity Factor

The Afterlife of America’s Newsrooms

Newspapers don’t work like they used to and neither do their buildings.

The San Francisco Chronicle Building sits on a prime corner abutting trendy SoMa.

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Development and plenty of it is springing up on the brick-and-mortar graves of old newspapers. In cities across the country, newspapers are shrinking and corporate owners are desperately monetizing whatever assets the Internet hasn’t stolen from them.

In this week’s Next City Forefront article, “Inside Big Real Estate’s Play for San Francisco’s Hipster-Geeks,” journalist Nancy Scola took us to the storied home of the San Francisco Chronicle, now being redeveloped as part of Forest City’s 5M development.

Where once were newspaper printing bays, tech companies do business. In concrete between-spaces, where reporters likely once procrastinated deadlines with cigarettes and sarcasm, there are food trucks and art projects aimed at connecting the building’s new techie tenants to their neighbors.

It’s not only in San Francisco where the changing news business means a changing cityscape.

The Detroit News building

In Detroit, the Detroit Media Partnership, which manages the Free Press and The Detroit News recently sold the newspapers’ elegant Albert Kahn-designed headquarters to Dan Gilbert, the enterprising businessman who has bought up most of downtown Detroit’s valuable architecture in hopes of catalyzing a revival. Gilbert hasn’t announced his plans for the 1917 gem but certainly, it doesn’t involve news reporting. In the wake of the sale, the newspapers’ offices are being relocated to another Gilbert-owned building.

Meanwhile in Brooklyn, the 2002 conversion of the Daily News printing press into a luxury condos development called Newswalk foreshadowed the transformation that would entirely reshape the neighborhood over the next 12 years.

Brooklyn’s Newswalk building has had its share of controversial news coverage since its days as a news production facility. In 1998, a Manhattan-based developer bought the former Daily News printing plant with high hopes of redeveloping it into a movie theater and retail hub. Since then, the sky-high resale prices of the building’s lofts have hit headlines all throughout NYC boroughs.

Scroll down for before-and-after photos of repurposed newspaper architecture.

The former Miami Herald building opened its doors in 1963. Its post-war architecture and bay-front location made it one of Miami’s most recognized edifices. In 2011, the cash-strapped McClatchy Company, which owns the Herald, sold the building to a Malaysian hotel and casino operator for a luxury resort and condo development. The site sold for $236 million at a time when McClatchy was restructuring operations at newspapers it owned across the country in efforts to stem financial losses. The revenue from the Miami sale went in large part toward company pensions.

The site’s owner, Genting Group, has hit setbacks in the redevelopment of One Herald Plaza, among them a failure to secure state approvals for a casino envisioned for the site. There are rumors the Malaysian resort giant is looking to sell the site, despite the space-age renderings of a Resorts World Miami it has put out. David Beckham has even thought of bringing a world-class soccer stadium to the former newspaper site.

Boulder, Colorado’s Daily Camera operated for more than a century in a compact brick building on Pearl Street in the city’s walkable downtown before selling the site in 2010 for $9 million.

Redevelopment of the former Daily Camera building is now underway. PearlWest is the name of the $110 million commercial development that will replace the low-rise brick mainstay that pumped out the city’s news for generations. Retail, high-end office buildings and a movie theater will all share a home in the glassy complex.

The San Jose Mercury News building was heralded at its opening in 1967 as the world’s largest one-story newspaper plant. With a price tag of $1 million — think about how much money that was in 1967 — the 312,000-square-foot main building and 36-acre campus could accommodate 1,000 employees. With its modernist design and sprawling campus, the newspaper headquarters was doubtlessly influenced by IBM and the other technology companies that had, in the previous decade or two, begun to dramatically reshape the local economy.

In 2013, the newspaper sold its land to a 20-year-old computer part manufacturer that plans to convert the site into plants and offices. The manufacturer, Supermicro, paid approximately $30.5 million. The San Jose Mercury plans to move operations back to downtown San Jose, where it had been before developing its highway-side campus in 1967. With its promise of manufacturing jobs, Supermicro could help reduce a growing income chasm in the city as the largely white-collar tech industry continues to boom and less specialized fields such as construction falter.

This past April, the 105-year-old Flint Farmer’s Market found its new home where the former Flint Journal printing press building once stood. Replacing one historic entity with another, the Market’s move to downtown Flint is part of a $32 million redevelopment project to rejuvenate the city’s beleaguered center. Today, state-of-the-art technology and free wi-fi hum in old printing bays while vendors sell fresh produce in an open market. With an eye to job creation, the farmers’ market has a rentable commercial kitchen and an incubator kitchen program called Flint Food Works.

Founded in 1876 when Flint was a booming center of the lumber trade, the Flint Journal watched over the Michigan city through several boom and bust cycles, most recently the decades of depopulation that followed the closures of automobile plants that had been major employers. In 2012, the newspaper’s printing press fell silent when it decided to move its operations to Bay City. Nearly a year later, city officials announced plans to relocate the beloved Flint Farmer’s Market to the vast, vacant location as part of a larger redevelopment officials hope will bring life back to downtown.

_This article has been updated _

The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

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Gabriella is a Drexel University graduate and Next City intern who likes to write about issues plaguing urban communities and the innovative projects to solve them. Before joining Next City, she worked as a fellow with the Majora Carter Group and at Harlem Children’s Zone.

Tags: downtown revitalization

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