Journal Sentinel Making Historic Move
Newspaper selling its home of 95 years, moving to leased space in 330 Kilbourn complex.
The long-rumored sale of the historic Milwaukee Journal Sentinel complex at 333 W. State St. was confirmed today in a report by the newspaper.
The Gannett-owned publication and its 260 employees are expected to move to the twin towers of 330 Kilbourn in East Town. “It’s a more modern facility that I think people will feel a lot more comfortable in,” Andy Fisher, Gannett’s vice president of sales for Wisconsin, told reporter Tom Daykin. “It’ll have a really fresh feel.”
The paper’s new home, long-known as Plaza East, was renovated in 2016 by national real estate firm Tishman Speyer. The two 13-story towers were rebranded after the complex’s address, 330 E. Kilbourn Ave., and lobby was renovated. Built in the early 1980s, the buildings have a combined 475,000 square feet of leasable space.
The newspaper’s move to leased space is expected to occur in the first half of 2020. Meanwhile, developers Joshua Jeffers and Tony Janowiec, who did not respond to a request for comment, are planning to close on the purchase of the Journal Sentinel complex in late August. The complex, which includes the building occupied by Major Goolsby’s restaurant, is assessed at $13 million.
The anchor to the Journal Sentinel complex is the six-story, iconic office building built in 1924 for The Milwaukee Journal, and that symbolized journalism in this city for nearly a century. Its printing presses were relocated years ago to suburban West Milwaukee while an ever-shrinking reporting staff remained in an ever emptier building. The full-block complex, which includes a building long occupied by The Milwaukee Sentinel (918 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.), has been listed for sale for a couple of years since the newspaper was purchased by Gannett, best known as the owner of USA Today.
Daykin, who has been a hard-working figure in the newsroom for decades, reported that the newspaper only uses 25 percent of the space in the complex. The Sentinel building is vacant.
Common Council members Robert Bauman and Michael Murphy successfully nominated the complex for local historic designation earlier this year. The designation requires city approval for any exterior modifications. The nomination was not opposed by Gannett, nor Jeffers and Janowiec.
Bauman and Murphy said they nominated the building for historic status given the uncertain future of the paper. At the time of designation, Gannett had recently rejected a takeover bid from Digital First. Gannett, which acquired the Journal Media Group from Scripps in 2016, is now proposing to merge with GateHouse Media.
The proposed merger would give the combined company control of one in every six newspapers in the United States. GateHouse currently owns 451 papers and Gannett owns 216. Gannett is currently the largest newspaper publisher by circulation, while GateHouse is the largest by the number of papers. Despite the market dominance, Gannett has reported two straight quarterly losses, while GateHouse has reported a loss in two of the last four quarters.
Gannett currently owns 12 Wisconsin newspapers, which share stories and back-of-the-house functions under the USA Today Network-Wisconsin brand.
Janowiec and Jeffers have not disclosed plans for the complex, but the partners are involved in a host of downtown projects. They’re collaborating on the redevelopment of the Milwaukee Athletic Club. Jeffers is also developing the Huron Building and has redeveloped a number of historic buildings. Janowiec is leading the redevelopment of the Shops of Grand Avenue mall.
If you want to know more about the JS complex, including its three-building, 1962 addition, how it could have supported a 42-story building, what the main JS lobby was historically used for or about that penthouse atop the building, read the extensive study prepared by Historic Preservation Commission staffer Carlen Hatala.
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