Sunday, June 24, 2012

Des Moines | In building deal, end of an era nears

The Des Moines Register this morning confirmed a published report that it's negotiating to relocate to another building downtown, as investors consider redeveloping the paper's landmark home into a commercial-residential complex.

Undated postcard shows 1918 tower
The daily had disclosed in February that it was planning a move to space better suited for the higher-tech business it hopes to become, albeit one with many fewer workers than it once employed.

The company moved to its 13-story tower in 1919 and added a four-story wing, home to the newsroom, in 1947. Its new site would be Capital Square, which was built in 1985.

The Register owns its current building. But the land is held by three interests. The paper’s leases are expiring, a factor in the move, Publisher Laura Hollingsworth told the paper.

Today's story follows a CityView weekly report on Thursday.

$100M on block
Gannett is shedding more real estate as it winds down its traditional newspaper printing in favor of digital publishing with fewer employees. CityView says the Register's Sunday circulation once hit 525,000 copies. It's now fewer than 212,000; weekday circulation is about 102,000, according to the March 31 ABC report.

Just three days ago, CEO Gracia Martore told Wall Street analysts that GCI has more than $100 million in real estate on the market, including one property for more than $20 million. She didn't identify that property, however.

CityView said the Register's land and buildings cover two-thirds of an acre -- half of a block -- and are assessed at $3,510,000.

The Register story by Perry Beeman doesn't give dollar values. But it details the property's history and place in the community in language that evokes the bittersweet nature of any move to a new home.

Those 'hallowed halls'
"It’s too early," Beeman writes, "to say whether the wrecking ball is headed for the hallowed halls that once echoed with the voices of so many journalism notables, including James Risser, Clark Mollenhoff, Ding Darling, Frank Miller, David Yepsen, Michael Gartner, Geneva Overholser and Sec Taylor."

A particular concern is the future of a large globe of the world produced by Rand McNally that's been a fixture in the lobby since 1950.

Because of its age, Beeman writes, it features "a constellation of countries in Africa that has changed radically, and the sprawling and now-defunct Soviet Union." Hollingsworth isn't guaranteeing the globe will follow the paper to its next home.

Rand McNally officials are estimating the globe's value, and Hollingsworth is considering several possibilities, including donating it to a group such as the State Historical Museum.

Earlier: Hollingsworth takes heat from readers over paywall.



  1. Longtime Register observers will note with particular interest the inclusion of Overholser's name in today's article -- given a backstory that once rocked Gannett.

  2. I clicked to read about the Register building and saw this hard-hitting piece of multimedia journalism: Twin Peaks Girls of West Des Moines.|tvideo|article

  3. Sadly, the money from the sale of the Register building and others will go right to the bottom line as profit for investors, instead of being invested in making the newspapers better. At the same time, the newsrooms will have to come up with the money for rented space elsewhere, hitting their already "cut to the bone" budgets for news coverage.

  4. Wonder how much of that $100 million will actually be used to hire, train and reward content creators. But I think I already know the answer.

  5. $100 million presumably is the market value of the assets, and the amount of cash that might be generated. It doesn't tell you what Gannett might ultimately realize on the bottom line (most of which would be non-recurring anyway).

  6. I guess you forgot the I formation that USCP is goi g to hire 240 new journalists.

  7. $100 million may be on the block, but it’s what Gannett will net after it writes down what’s on its books for those properties (real estate values have plunged, values Gannett keeps on the books most likely have not) that matters most as all are not free and clear.

    The big question after that is what will Gannett do with the money that’s left, reduce debts, more stock buybacks, overpaying for new entities, one-time enhanced dividends, bigger bonuses for corporate staff for a "more profitable" year?

    ROI on those monies is what’s important and that’s what analysts should have asked, else this is just selling off more of Gannett’s pieces to keep afloat.

  8. I grew up in central Iowa reading the Register, and I mourn for the newspaper I once read, where that awesome list of journalists once worked. Reading the Register is what sent me into journalism, and I still remember the thrill 20-some years ago when I had an unbylined sports brief published.

    It's sad what the Register has become. I know the business has changed, but if you pick up a copy of the Register today, you'd never guess what it once used to be.

  9. @1:01 . . . most real estate and hard assets such as buildings are usually carried at cost. The hard assets are depreciated, meaning if they are over 30 years old, their book value is ZERO.

    Any real estate and buildings purchased over 10 years ago (and certainly more than 30 years ago) will net a tremendous profit when sold.

  10. Are they going to give severance packages or just knock down the building with the people they aren't moving still in it?

  11. A major story from Des Moines and not one comment from a Register employee?
    I guess they are afraid that Laura will find out that they posted here.and be laid off sooner than otherwise planned.Or are they just loving their Gannett world?

  12. Says 8:42, who posts anonymously.

    What a chickenshit.

  13. In case you haven't noticed,everyone posts anonymously.
    Still no posts from Des Moines,
    no names needed.

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  16. They have been dumping properties in Phoenix for the last four years.A sprawling property that was used,primarily for employees recreation ( obviously, a pre Gannett concept) and located in a prime area, was first subdivided and sold off to a high school and then the other half was eventually sold to a bank. They have halved the property at distribution centers and sold it off to the local municipality for a bus stop. They have moved employees to other locales to sell off their offices-they even rent parking spaces at the garage at their main building to ASU students at inflated rates....hmmm, I wonder what that slush fund pays for. Soon, the well will be dry and with no more properties to sell,furloughs to implement, or employees to lay off, they will hopefully start eating their own-we can dream, right?

  17. Hear, hear, 1:13. I was born and raised in Iowa and the Register was a damn good paper. Gannett has turned it into a joke.

  18. As an employee at the Register I am excited to move to an updated building. While the current building has a lot of history, it is old, out dated and creates silos between departments. I can tell you most of us are excited and look forward to the move.
    Thank you Laura

  19. 1:13, you took the words out of my mouth. The Register is why I'm a journalist today. In addition to it being where my father worked for a time, carrying the Register was my first paying job.

    I haven't been proud to say that for a few years now. The dignified, truth-telling lady has been reduced to a Stepfordian tramp.


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