Many of today’s slimmed-down big city daily newspapers may no longer be able to justify the headquarters buildings constructed expressly for them a century ago. But those early 20th-century monuments to the Fourth Estate’s power and glory have not gone away. Far from it, in fact. From San Francisco to Chicago to Miami to Toronto, former North American publishing houses are being repurposed into mixed-use developments ideally suited to the Internet age.
In Philadelphia, the George Howe-designed headquarters of the long-shuttered Philadelphia Evening Bulletin are being accorded a $45 million transformation. The resulting restored “Bulletin Building” will feature ground-level shopping and dining and serve as hub of the city’s new Schuylkill Yards Innovation District, to be unveiled later this year.
In Detroit, the World War I-era Free Press Building was vacated by the Detroit Free Press 22 years ago. It is currently the beneficiary of an ongoing $69.6 million redevelopment effort to reboot the venerable structure as a residential tower with office space and first-floor retail.
In San Francisco the Chronicle Building, which dates from 1924, is undergoing a renovation as part of a larger neighborhood redevelopment project called 5M. Plans are for the reborn building to be part of a transition block featuring a blend of residential and office space.
In the Windy City, the Chicago Tribune sold the venerable Tribune Tower on North Michigan Avenue in 2016, vacating the soaring Gothic structure two years later. The tower, completed in 1925, is being repurposed as a high-end condominium, with residential units offered at prices in excess of $7.6 million. First move-ins are expected to take place late this year.
Watching the trend with keen interest has been David Hofstedter, CEO of Toronto-based real estate investment and property management firm Davpart Inc. The company is shepherding the redevelopment of the historic Maclean Publishing Company building at 481 University Place in Toronto. The edifice will be rechristened The United Building, and will preserve the historic structure but add a gleaming 52-story high-rise. The result will be a distinctive downtown building with offices and retail on the ground floor, and residential units above. It will be the tallest architectural heritage retention development in North America.
“The face of publishing has morphed from paper-and-ink to an electronic industry, making sprawling physical headquarters obsolete, particularly those which have through the course of time been located in the center of the city, such as those at University and Dundas in Toronto,” Hofstedter says.
“As fast-paced and technologically advanced as our world is today, people are realizing more than ever the importance of preserving the past while catapulting into the future. Repurposing former publishing houses – and in fact any buildings with significant heritage and cultural significance – is a perfect way to ensure our roots remain visible as we address the practical and ever-changing residential and commercial needs of our urban areas. Repurposing accomplishes this without tearing down historic structures.”
Davpart Inc. viewed historical conservation as the key facet of The United Building’s design. Its initial move was to engage B+H Architects and heritage consultant ERA Architects to preserve the exteriors of 210 Dundas and 481 University, built in 1928 and 1961 respectively.
The nine-story steel-frame commercial building at 481 University boasts communication-themed bas-relief works created in 1958 by acclaimed sculptor Elizabeth Wyn Wood.
“We are incorporating this architectural aspect into the design,” Hofstedter says. “The contemporary tower that will rise 44 stories from this base is designed to pay tribute to the original architecture, while adding a more modern vibe to the streetscape.
“But the whole is more than the sum of the parts. The result is an integrated development that dynamically projects a rich past with a vibrant, exciting future.”