Sometime between September and November, the Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com expects to leave its home of some 81 years on East Exchange Street and move southwest just a short distance away.
The Beacon Journal will relocate into the top floor of the nearby AES building off South Main Street, on the outskirts of the former B.F. Goodrich campus in downtown Akron.
The timing of the move depends on when renovations on the seventh floor are complete.
Finding a new home became a priority when GateHouse Media, which acquired the Beacon Journal last year, did not include the building at 44 E. Exchange St., the paper’s location since 1938, as part of the purchase. Instead, GateHouse has been leasing the space.
Canada-based Black Press Ltd., the Beacon Journal’s previous owner, still owns the real estate that takes up an entire city block surrounded by Exchange, High, Cedar and Broadway.
Black Press has put the 230,000-square-foot Beacon Journal building up for sale. The asking price: $3 million.
So the Beacon Journal needed to find somewhere else to go in Akron.
“We wanted to maintain a downtown presence,” Beacon Journal Publisher Bill Albrecht said. “We hope to move in before November. We don’t have a set date. … Things are in process.”
Albrecht said ideally he’d like to make the move in September but that depends on the space being ready.
The lease on the AES space is signed and interior demolition work has started in advance of renovations, he said.
The Beacon Journal’s news, advertising and administrative operations will go into the AES building. Also making the move will be a satellite office for Beacon Journal news partner News 5 Cleveland.
Circulation/subscriber services have relocated to offices in another GateHouse property, the Record-Courier in Kent.
The AES space is significantly smaller than the Beacon Journal’s building.
“We are going into a square footage that is for what our business is today,” Albrecht said. “The AES building provided a real practical place for us to be. The facility is nice.”
That space doesn’t include room for a printing press and related equipment.
Under Black Press, the newspaper shut down its printing presses in 2013, dismantled the machinery and sold the metal for scrap, and had the paper printed by The Repository in Canton. The Beacon Journal is currently printed under contract by The Plain Dealer.
The new offices will have contemporary floor space, upgraded technology, new furnishings and more compared to the built-for-another-era current space, providing a more modern environment for employees, Albrecht said.
“It will also set the tone for where we need to go in the future,” he said.
The paper’s plans include a first-floor reception desk for visitors, he said. Albrecht also hopes to place a Beacon Journal/Ohio.com digital sign on the north side of the building that will show time, temperature and news headlines.
The Beacon Journal/Ohio.com intends to recognize its past, including ties to former owner/publisher John S. Knight and his brother James, in its new space, he said.
“I just think it’s important that people know we are not just walking away from the Knights' heritage and what they meant to Akron over the years,” Albrecht said. “I very much want to keep recognition of the past.”
The East Exchange building remains full of artifacts, some of which date back to the 1930s, he said.
The new offices will not have room for all of that, he said.
The paper’s plans include donating parts of its past to places and organizations such as the University of Akron, Summit County Public Library, Knight Foundation and others, Albrecht said.
The Beacon Journal will actually be moving into a building older than the East Exchange site, which was built in 1929 and occupied in 1930 by the former Akron Times-Press, which was sold in 1938 to the Beacon Journal.
The AES building was constructed in 1925 by tire manufacturer B.F. Goodrich and originally named Building 41, said Mike Weise, vice president of leasing for the building owner, the real estate development firm The Schipper Group.
The building fell into blighted disrepair after Akron’s tire industry all but disappeared.
But now, Weise said, “we like to call ourselves the coolest building in Akron.”
A big change
The Schipper Group bought the building in 1994 and reworked and upgraded the structure, including cutting out thick concrete flooring to create a six-story central atrium with skylights. The building was renamed for the former Advanced Elastomer Systems company that in 1995 moved in and occupied the top two floors before relocating out of state in 2015.
It is part of what is now being called the Southside Innovation District that includes other parts of the former Goodrich campus such as Canal Place and the Bounce Innovation Hub.
AES tenants include the Greater Akron Chamber, which relocated to first floor space earlier this year, law firm Brouse McDowell, an insurance company and other businesses. There is an on-site cafe, child-care facilities and 24-hour security.
As for what happens to the soon-to-be vacated East Exchange building, that will depend on who buys it. The nonprofit Preservation Ohio group this year placed the massive sandstone structure on its “Most Endangered Historic Sites” list.
“We’d like to sell the building,” said Rick O’Connor, chief executive officer for Black Press. “We don’t see ourselves as being a commercial landlord in Akron.”
Black Press has had offers on the property, he said.
“It’s the intent of the existing ownership group to source a buyer and sell the property by the end of the year,” said Rico Pietro, principal with Cushman & Wakefield/CRESCO Real Estate that is marketing the Beacon Journal building.
“We probably have three interested buyers,” Pietro said. He did not name the possible buyers.
The building is suitable for offices, residential, storage and other mixed use, he said. Part of the lower part of the building that formerly housed the printing presses could be converted into indoor parking, Pietro said.
“You have a full city block,” Pietro said. “There’s not a specific path to redevelopment. There are a lot of different possibilities.”
Jim Mackinnon covers business. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ