Monday, February 20, 2012

Des Moines to abandon century-old headquarters

The Des Moines Register is planning to leave its downtown office complex, becoming the latest Gannett property to put its real estate up for sale as space needs decline with an overall reduction in the company's size.

Undated postcard shows 1918 tower
"Ever since the Register opened its new printing plant south of the airport in 2001," business columnist David Elbert wrote this morning, "it hasn’t made sense for an increasingly high-tech 21st century media company to operate from an early 20th century building. Particularly when space requirements are less than half the more than 200,000 square feet of space in the Register’s long-time headquarters at 715 Locust St."

Publisher Laura Hollingsworth says she hopes to keep the daily's news operations downtown, presumably because that keeps editors and reporters closer to the government offices that generate news.

The Register also is home to a growing number of regional GCI operating units, including one of the five new design and production hubs that will build pages for most of the 80 U.S. community newspapers.

"Now is a good time to have a location problem,'' Elbert says. "As everyone knows, a ton of commercial space is currently available at affordable lease rates in the metro area."

The Register's circulation
Monday through Friday, 105,151; Saturday, 114,689; Sunday, 216,648.



  1. "It hasn’t made sense for an increasingly high-tech 21st century media company to operate from an early 20th century building."

    The same likely could be said for many GCI properties. GCI not aggressive enough when it comes to this aspect of its business.

  2. Let's relocate gannett hq and USA today. Ere is tons of unused space in Tyson's. Tons.

  3. I've long thought that real estate holdings have helped to put a floor on the stock price and once, long ago, encouraged Jim to do a "story" on the topic.

    Indeed, a few years ago, when the market tanked and most companies were priced for the end of the world, it is possible that GCI was trading at an overall market capitalization that was not all that much higher than the value of its real estate holdings. (Share price of $3 gets you a market cap of ~$700 million as opposed to today's share price of $15 which gets you a cap of $3.5 billion).

    Was GCI ever trading at a level where the market cap equaled the underlying value of the real estate holdings? No, that would be a big exaggeration, I suspect, and I'm not saying that. But the point remains.

    This would not be the first example of a company whose stock price is supported by the hidden value of its real estate. Sears is a big and perhaps the best recent example. Anybody know whether GCI owns the Virginia HQ and, if so, what that property in the (presumably) pricey D.C. market might be worth if sold?

  4. If you read the column, it says the publisher is negotiating an extension past mid-summer. So I wouldn't rule out the possibility of the Register staying put if they are able to get rock-bottom rent. The building's owner will have to raze the site if the Register leaves -- no one else will ever lease the space ... and the Register knows this.

  5. They've abandoned their readers, stage coverage and staff. So it goes...

  6. state coverage..sorry

  7. I think it would make a lovely funeral home.
    It already has the stench of death in it.
    Have they called the local funeral directors to see if they'd like to make a bid?
    They could turn the tower into a mausoleum.

  8. A fitting end to the queen L.H.

  9. Gannett greedily ruined one of the great newspapers of the Midwest. The Register today is a mere shadow of its former self.

    Of course, it is not alone in that fate........

  10. L.H. is not respected by most people who work with her so it's no wonder the Register is failing. As 10:03 AM said, other papers she's touched will meet the same fate.

  11. Do the RTC and the new design hub operate out of the downtown building? Or are they in the print plant building?

  12. RTC, design studio and regional ad production center are all in the downtown building. And lots of empty space.

  13. Jim, thank you so for posting this on the blog. Read about it first on the Register website, but nice to come here and have a chance to comment.

    1. Why the hell was this on the Register website before it was sent out in the Register's weekly email update? (Note: it STILL hasn't been mentioned in the update. Not like it will, but omg, it freaking should be.)

    2. Did anyone else notice that when the Register won the top General Excellence paper award last year, 2011, that most of their awards were in ADS and not journalism? Wtf?? Shouldn't general excellence be awarding the quality of journalism? If not, we're in trouble. I wonder how they pulled that off. Does anyone know?

    3. L.H. - Don't work directly with her and glad I don't. The Register makes no attempt, NO attempt, to make its affiliates (of which there are several) feel like they are part of the actual company that they belong to, other email addresses and the weekly "updates" about the Register itself and the break room that layoffs and furloughs helped pay for and no one outside of Des Moines will ever be able to use. Register affiliates do not even have the opportunity to buy Register merchandise - they have to drive all the way to Des Moines and go to the 3rd floor of the Register office to place an order and pick it up. Though this has been pointed out and digital is the way of the future and it'd be so easy for the Register to take orders by email and mail out the merchandise, they won't do it. That sends a clear message - we want your profits and ad dollars, but we don't consider you a part of the team.

    4. HOW is the Register going to be able to move its printing press if it moves? No one has addressed this, even on this blog!! That thing is multiple stories high. And how much would it cost to move? And where would the Register print its papers, the Wall Street Journal and all the other ones it prints while the press was inoperable and being moved?

  14. L.H. is one of those managers who tries to get what she wants by threatening you. Corporate, it's time to move her out. By far one of the worst people I've ever worked for in Gannett.

  15. Growing up in Iowa, one of the great pleasures was to walk past the first floor windows of the pressroom and see all the amazing activity inside. It felt like we were part of the newspaper. Of course the space is not big enough to house todays presses. So the first floor windows are blocked out, with nothing inside but the vacant floors and memories. Upper floor departments are split up between floors and become fragmented. The building really does not work for todays' world, but it is sad to remember what it once was and what most of Iowans' still think it ought to be... visible and connected to downtown and connected to the people of Iowa.

  16. 8:49 p.m. thanks for your answer!


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