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Observer Land In Play?


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In today's paper there is a small blurb indicating that as a cost cutting strategy the Observer is evaluating what it's uptown campus (9 acres) might be worth. Presumably, if they decided it made financial sense, they would sell this land and move their operations to cheaper land.

This could eventually be the way we get rid of a "not so pretty" building and convert the land to a much higher use.

I realize this subject has been discussed periodically in other threads, but usually the idea is dismissed or panned. This is the first time I've heard it suggested by the Observer itself.

I looked for a link to this story but can't find an electronic version. More power to anyone with more patience than me in finding a link to post!

edit: I found a link (sortof). This is not the same wording as the print edition of the paper today, but it at least mentions what I'm refering to above.


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The question is where would they move to? Would they stick to an urban neighborhood like S. End, move to the 'burbs like Ballantyne or possibly the Research Park, or would they just rent space in a multi-tenant building. The biggest problem is they have a lot of large equipment for printing, but it's inevitable that they sell sooner or later b/c they are having financial problems after financial problems. They really need to look to expanding their service somehow b/c paper newspapers are not as popular as they once were since one can get their news online for free.

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I am of the impression that McClatchy having destroyed the Observer is now looking to get rid of it to stem their losses. They have already sold off a number of their other papers. The quality of the Observer, as bad as it was under the last few years that Knight-Ridder owned it, has dropped, IMO, dramatically over the past couple of years and I basically consider it now to be trivial and unreadable. This is what happens when large corporations take over local enterprises at a national level and then move to turn the asset into a universal commodity. Look at what outfits like Clear Channel and Infinity did to FM radio.

The Observer has been in that building for a very long time so the sale of that property should result in a pretty big bonanza for McClatchy. I can easily see them selling off that building, and moving the production to one of the many manufacturing sites around the city. I know of several vacant facilities where they might go. Now that they have started to outsource their office workers and/or consolidate with their other papers, there really isn't a need for them to have a big presence in downtown from a purely economic standpoint.

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Do they need rail access? I've never noticed the spur to their building used. I've heard that it would be extremely difficult to relocate some of the presses that are deep in the building, but I suppose anything is feasible. I think it would make sense to relocate the printing/distribution to a industrial park, and lease space for editing/marketing etc. somewhere Uptown.

Edit. Is the Observer building a local landmark? I seem to remember Dan Morrill naming it as something he'd like to designate as one.

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Over the last 30 years I have see many good companies bought out and closed, and property sold to pay off debt.

It looks like the news paper industry is going to have just one or two owners in the US.

Where are our anti-trust laws? They are picking clean to the bone all assets and will cast off the remains. I would love to see the Observer sold to local investors.

Looking at the Observer now to not what it was 20 years ago, it now looks like a small town news paper. Today

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I never really did understand the original argument people had for the Observer not selling this land because the equipment they have would be difficult to relocate as I'm sure that the majority of their losses are coming from inefficient, decades-old presses. I wonder when the last time they did a machinery refresh in that building, if at all. The Observer is definitely a staple in Charlotte's history and it would be a shame to see the building go, however, they didn't make very good use of their land in an urban environment to begin with overall.

I honestly think this land could have many better uses besides another tower. Given it's proximity to the other cultural facilities, wouldn't this building this be prime for a museum or, dare I say, an aquarium? Heck, the old machinery could be part of the museum. It is a massive, well built facility that already has the presence of a museum, turn the lawn between it and WB into a mini-park with vendor space and use the building as a cultural facility. There is plenty of land around the site for skyscrapers, especially with the propose 277 cap.

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Actually, we touched on this topic about 9 months ago, and now it's playing out :o :


I hear that Ann Caulkins sent an email to the Observer staff explicitly stating that this does not mean the Observer is for sale. It's McClatchy's way of dealing with the downturn in the economy. They'll evaluate the land, but there's no guarantee anything will happen.

I've said for years that I think the Observer will eventually move. The Rock Hill Herald will be printed by the Observer starting in a few months. It would make a lot of sense to move somewhere out in the Westinghouse Blvd. area or somewhere similar, rather than the University area. I doubt they'd move into South Carolina, though, being "Charlotte's" paper... but who knows.

Also, the WSJ printing facility is the emergency press site for the Observer. I doubt they would locate there, or even close to there (in case power is out in the area, etc.).

The Observer's presses are less than 10 years old. Young actually, in the life of printing presses I would assume. I wonder if they would move the presses or build new ones at a new facility? Then they could presumably sell the old presses once the new ones are in place. If they moved them, they'd have to be moved one at a time which would take months. Regardless, there will be expenses involved, which will eat away at the profit from the sale.

Personally, I'd like to see the Observer retain some sort of uptown presence. Regardless of how many people feel about it, the newspaper is still a community resource and IMO, its newsroom and advertising staffs belongs uptown. Where it's printed is irrelevant.

(As for the building being ugly, I can't argue with you Heheheh :whistling: )

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It has been, in fact, in play since Peter Ridder was at the helm of the Charlotte Observer that TCO might abandon its land and begin printing at a centrally-located print facility.

Even though TCO's presses are only decades old, the Raleigh N&O has a brand-new, $30MM facility. I personally toured it right before it opened. It is more likely they will print TCO's paper, allowing the ad sales/newsroom staff to move across the street into the new Wachovia complex.

Four years ago, TCO had a market valuation of approximately $366MM. Today, it is $50MM -- or less. Meaning: the land that the newspaper sits upon is roughly as valuable, if not more, than the entire newspaper company.


This represented 41% of the Class-B controlling stocks of MNI.

Before too long, you'll see TCO, N&O, LWP (lake wylie pilot) and RHH all being printed out of one consolidated facility, likely that in Raleigh. It's a nice one though and can certainly accomodate all of this work.

To the previous poster who commented on the Observer's railway spur --- that has been out of use for many, many years. Originally under Knight-Ridder, it provided for 2-ton paper rolls that came from KR's tree farm/paper mill in Canada, but that has long since been divested. All of the paper now comes from Weyerhauser, etc., via semi truck. Glance the next time you're on Graham Street across from BofA Stadium and you'll see all of the grass grown over that spur. No need to keep that ROW open.

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