24 January 2013

They are staying in Detroit, but, Free Press & Detroit News to move out of historic building

Story first appeared in Crain's Detroit Business

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, along with their joint business and advertising operation, will move 600 employees out of their current downtown offices in the next year to 18 months and into a "more modern building" elsewhere in the city.

That's according to an emailed memo from Detroit Media Partnership President Joyce Jenereaux to staffers that was obtained Wednesday afternoon by Crain's and confirmed by management.

No site has been identified, said Rich Harshbarger, the partnership's vice president of consumer marketing. A site facility study will determine the location and size of the new offices, which will be leased.

The current building, garage and parking lot will be sold, and the relocation will happen independent of the sale.

The partnership has hired Joseph Rosenberg, senior vice president at CBRE Group Inc. in Southfield, to handle the process.

Both newspapers and the business operations will remain in the city, Harshbarger said.
"We're looking at all possibilities. It could be Midtown. We're committed to Detroit," he said. "We're looking at the same number of head count downtown."

The News has been in the Albert Kahn-designed building at 615 W. Lafayette Blvd. since it opened as a printing facility in 1917. The partnership moved in during 1989, and the Free followed in 1998, Harshbarger said.

"The goal is to put us in more comfortable, attractive and functional offices in an environment that's more vibrant and stimulating than our current location on the edge of downtown — while saving the extraordinary expenses of maintaining a nearly 100-year-old building," Jenereaux said in the staff memo.

Jenereaux noted that the current building was designed largely as a printing facility, and converted pressroom and newsprint storage areas are used as office space. A newer office will be cheaper, too.

"Our current building is historic, but it's been obsolete for decades," she wrote. "The building has more space than we need, and as it has aged, it has become difficult and costly to maintain and operate."

The Free Press and Detroit News are linked through a 25-year joint operating agreement signed in 2005 to handle as one business unit the advertising, printing and distribution of the papers. The newspapers are printed at a plant in Sterling Heights.

Tysons Corner, Va.-based Gannett Co. Inc. owns the Free Press and 95 percent of the partnership. The News is owned by Denver-based MediaNews Inc., which has the other 5 percent of the partnership.

MediaNews paid $25 million in stock to acquire The News from Gannett in 2005. Gannett, in turn, bought the Free Press for $262 million from now-defunct Knight Ridder Inc.

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