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  1. Business

Tampa Bay Times' downtown building is for sale

The eight-story, 250,000-square-foot facility on First Avenue S consists of three buildings that have been joined together.
Published Jan. 16, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — The Times Publishing Co., parent of the Tampa Bay Times, is placing its flagship office at 490 First Ave. S on the market for sale.

The eight-story, 250,000-square-foot facility consists of three buildings built in 1924, 1968 and 1988 that are joined together.

Potential buyers have already approached the company with interest in the building, according to Paul Tash, Times Publishing chairman and CEO.

The company plans to use money from the sale to pay off a loan it secured a year ago.

"The proceeds — combined with other pending transactions — will extinguish our debt to Crystal Financial in Boston," Tash said. "Crystal has been an excellent financial partner, and that loan has given us time to restructure the company for the post-recession realities. Selling the building will close the chapter."

Times Publishing secured a $28 million loan from Crystal, a Boston-based independent commercial finance company, to refinance existing debt and help grow the company.

Like many newspapers, the Times has reduced its staff in recent years as the industry as a whole has faced financial difficulties from a challenging advertising market. It no longer needs all the space in its downtown building, Tash said, but has no intention of selling its printing plant on 34th Street N.

"Together, we have taken strong measures to put the Times on solid footing, and they are already showing up in our financial results," Tash said in a letter to employees on Thursday. "Last year was better than the one before, and this year will be better yet."

Depending on the new owner's plans, the newspaper could remain in the building as a tenant or move to new quarters.

Times Publishing is not specifying an asking price for the building. Developers have been steadily buying downtown parcels in the past few years as St. Petersburg becomes a hot market for living, vacationing and working. The office market is seeing an uptick in interest, as well. In November, the 17-story, 250,000-square-foot First Central Tower at Central Avenue and Fourth Street sold for $29.15 million.

The Tampa Bay Times is not alone among newspaper companies deciding to sell buildings that are too big for current needs. About a year ago, the Washington Post sold its headquarters for $159 million. In 2011, the Miami Herald sold its 14-acre waterfront site for $236 million. Last week, the owner of the Los Angeles Times said it was seeking partners to redevelop the site its building occupies into a mixed-use project. Also last week, the Charlotte Observer reported that it is on the verge of selling its downtown offices and parking lots, and the Raleigh News & Observer said in December it was considering selling its building.

Contact Katherine Snow Smith at kssmith@tampabay.com. Follow @snowsmith.

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