HOUSTON – The Houston Chronicle will relocate employees from its downtown offices and move into to the former Houston Post facility on the Southwest Freeway, not far from the Galleria, the Hearst publication announced Monday.
The Post building now houses the Chronicle’s printing presses, distribution, circulation and sales employees.
The Chronicle is expected to sell its 10-story downtown building, located at 801 Texas Avenue between Milam and Travis. The Chronicle has been at that site for many decades, but the printing press facilities were moved into the former Post property several years ago.
For decades, insiders have discussed moving the Chronicle out of downtown. The industrial aspects of the newspaper business – tank-trucks full of ink and bobtails laden with massive rolls of paper – were not a good match for downtown traffic. But the downtown location is great for pedestrian news gatherers, while the former Post building offers no walking options.
The 440,000-square-foot former Post building sits on a 21-acre site at the southeast quadrant of the Loop 610, U.S. Highway 59 interchange. The Chronicle will spend 18 months to renovate the site.
“We are excited about creating a state-of-the-art media facility as part of the Houston cityscape,” Paul Barbetta, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Houston Chronicle Media Group, said in a statement. “As we have changed with the industry, we feel a facility housing all employees across our diverse capabilities, including print, digital media and agency consulting services will allow us to better serve our readers and advertisers.”
Barbetta said some news operations will remain downtown to facilitate coverage of government and business. The Chronicle currently has 473 employees in downtown and about 500 in the former Post property. The Chronicle said it is “exploring alternatives” for its downtown building, much of which is classified as being in “poor” condition by the Harris County Appraisal District.
Downtown property near the Chronicle building has been escalating in value and Hines and other real estate firms are developing high-rise residential and office towers. Being located across the street from the 75-story Chase Tower, the Chronicle site would be ideal for new construction.
Demand for downtown real estate is at a fever pitch, however, market conditions could be cooling off in a year or two, meaning Hearst may have missed the opportunity to sell at the peak of the market.
In April 1995, the Houston Post closed and the Hearst Corp. bought the Post’s assets, including the Post building at 4747 Southwest Freeway. The Chronicle is seeking proposals for architectural and engineering firms for a redevelopment of Post site.
Today, the Chronicle is the sixth largest newspaper in the nation. A note: Realty News Report Editor Ralph Bivins formerly covered real estate for the Houston Chronicle.
Commentary by Ralph Bivins