For sale: The Morning Call’s building

The Morning Call’s headquarters at Sixth and Linden streets in Allentown — one of the largest properties in the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone that has not been targeted for development or redevelopment — is for sale.

The building is owned by Tribune Media, the Chicago company that spun off its publishing division, including The Morning Call and the rest of its newspaper properties in 2014.

“Tribune Real Estate, a division of Tribune Media, announced today its intentions to put The Morning Call building up for sale,” Publisher Rick Daniels said in an email to employees. “Since the spinoff of Tribune Publishing in 2014, we have been leasing our space in The Morning Call building. This change to our building status does not impact our current long-term lease agreement, allowing us to seamlessly continue our commitment to provide news and information that we can all be proud of to our community.”

The building, which has 250,000 square feet of space, is listed for sale on Costar, a subscription-based database. There is no asking price attached to the listing.

The Morning Call’s lease runs through 2022, with an option to renew, Daniels said.

In addition to The Morning Call, Tribune Publishing owns and operates the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and several other daily newspapers. Tribune Media kept the newspapers’ real estate holdings when it spun off the publishing unit, and charges the newspapers rent.

History of The Morning Call in downtown Allentown

History of The Morning Call in downtown Allentown

The Morning Call’s headquarters at Sixth and Linden streets in Allentown is for sale.

The building, which has 250,000 square feet of space, is listed for sale on Costar, a subscription-based database. It is owned by Tribune Media, the Chicago-based company that spun-off its publishing division,…

The Morning Call’s headquarters at Sixth and Linden streets in Allentown is for sale.

The building, which has 250,000 square feet of space, is listed for sale on Costar, a subscription-based database. It is owned by Tribune Media, the Chicago-based company that spun-off its publishing division,…

Read the story

Tribune Media said last year it planned to sell its real estate holdings to take advantage of “robust market conditions” and raise revenue.

“We’re moving at an accelerated pace to monetize our real estate assets and finding a lot of interest in a highly competitive marketplace,” CEO Peter Liguori said on a conference call with investment analysts in November 2015.

The company has placed other real estate on sale in recent months, including the headquarters of the Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant newspapers.

Tribune Publishing's top shareholder is now Michael Ferro, majority owner of Sun-Times

Tribune Publishing’s top shareholder is now Michael Ferro, majority owner of Sun-Times

Michael Ferro, majority owner of the Chicago Sun-Times, has become the largest shareholder in Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, parent company of The Morning Call, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other major daily newspapers.

Tribune Publishing sold more than 5.2 million shares of newly…

Michael Ferro, majority owner of the Chicago Sun-Times, has become the largest shareholder in Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, parent company of The Morning Call, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other major daily newspapers.

Tribune Publishing sold more than 5.2 million shares of newly…

(Robert Channick)

Tribune attempted to rent unoccupied space in The Morning Call building before the split. As recently as 2013, a leasing brochure listed 17,842 square feet of available office space, and a commercial real estate listing from 2010 sought a rate of $13 per square foot, but the more recent listings offered a negotiable rate.

The Morning Call building’s location in Allentown’s NIZ means a buyer could tap future new tenants’ state and local tax payments to finance renovations or new construction on the property. It’s one of the largest remaining properties in the zone with no current plans to capitalize on those tax incentives.

The building presents a variety of options, said Sy Traub, chairman of the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority board.

It would be ideal site for a museum such as The DaVinci Science Center, which has been looking at expansion options, Traub said.

“Your building would be in among the other museum attractions and as such might have a lot of built-in possibilities,” he said.

DaVinci, located on the Hamilton Bypass in Allentown, is only just beginning to look at expanding its offerings, said spokesman Dennis Zehner. There are no specific plans for The Morning Call or any other property.

“We are in an early stage of looking at a wide variety of potentials for expansion,” he said.

J.B. Reilly, CEO of City Center Investment Corp., the largest developer of property in the NIZ, declined comment.

The Morning Call’s location in the NIZ makes it a potentially valuable acquisition, said John Crampsie, a commercial real estate expert and principal for Allentown’s NAI Summit. With the NIZ dominated by high-end class A space, The Morning Call property could attract more cost-conscious tenants.

If The Morning Call plans to relocate its offices, a new owner could replace them with a medical, educational or other user for whom cost and the need for a large open space is a primary factor, he said. It’s unclear what would happen with the paper’s printing operation in that scenario.

If the newspaper staff plans to stay, a buyer would need only find a tenant to occupy the vacant space.

“That’s an interesting project, it could go in a number of different ways,” he said.

NJ Advance Media’s Express-Times newspaper left its longtime headquarters in Easton last year after shifting its printing to a plant in New York. Its building has been targeted by the city as the home of a new police headquarters and the newspaper now occupies smaller digs in the Alpha Building on Centre Square.

Lehigh County real estate records put the value of The Morning Call building at $6.9 million for tax assessment purposes. The annual property tax bill is $190,555.

scott.kraus@mcall.com

Twitter @skraus

610-820-6745

Morning Call reporter Jon Harris contributed to this story.

THE MORNING CALL DOWNTOWN

The Morning Call’s presence in Allentown dates to 1883 when a Saturday evening newspaper called The Critic was founded. Today, the paper is at Sixth and Linden streets, where it’s had a presence since 1920. Here’s a snapshot of the paper’s history, as it pertains to its locations:

1905: By this point, The Morning Call had been moved to 16 S. Sixth St. and had installed its first linotype machine. An eight-page steam-operated press was installed, and it was printing 5,000 newspapers a day.

1906: Growth necessitated more space and equipment, so The Morning Call moved to 27 S. Sixth St. There, a 16-page Hoe cylinder press was installed and later expanded to accommodate the printing of a 48-page newspaper.

1920: The weekly Allentown Democrat changed its name to The Morning Herald and consolidated its circulation with The Morning Call. All operations were moved to Sixth and Linden streets.

1935: The Morning Call acquired The Chronicle and News, and transferred its operations to the Sixth and Linden plant. The Chronicle and News was renamed The Evening Chronicle.

1981: On Aug. 31, 1981, The Call-Chronicle Newspapers’ 270-car, three-level parking garage at Sixth and Turner streets was formally opened. Allentown Mayor Frank Fischl termed the new garage as “an indication of your dedication to the center-city.”

Open all references in tabs: [1 – 3]

Leave a Reply