City to Buy Plain Dealer Building for New Police Headquarters, Moving to Old Scene Building

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[image-1] Pending council approval, the city of Cleveland will purchase the Plain Dealer building at 1801 Superior Ave. and renovate it for the new police headquarters.

The city had been on the hunt for a new cop HQ after agreeing to sell its part of the Justice Center to Cuyahoga County.

The Plain Dealer building finished construction around 2000, built on the land of the paper's previous home, and arrived at the tail end of a decade when the organization had some 350 employees. A 1998 PD article announcing the project's design read, "The building represents a $38 million investment by the Plain Dealer along one of Cleveland's major urban corridors."

The timing of that major investment wasn't ideal. The newspaper industry began its slow but precipitous decline in the early 2000s as sales and revenue fell thanks to the web. It would be less than ten years before the Plain Dealer sought to lease 88,000 square feet of its home after staff reductions in business and editorial, with MCPc, a technology company, taking over the entire third floor in 2010. Since then, the paper leased additional space to the YMCA of Greater Cleveland and the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland as those staff reductions continue unabated (60 buyouts in 2006; 23 buyouts and 27 layoffs in 2008) and the organization split into the Plain Dealer proper (with about 110 staffers after 47 layoffs in 2013) and the digital operation Ohio (nee Northeast Ohio Media Group).

That seismic (union-busting, dumb, still confusing) bifurcation originally saw NEOMG reporters relocated to an office in the Flats, but they were shuffled back to 1801 in 2014 as PD staffers were booted to the Skylight Office in Tower City.

After its $38 million investment (which included demolition of the old building), the Plain Dealer will collect just $19.5 million on the purchase agreement with the city. (As Michelle Jarboe noted yesterday, the county valued the building at $20 million, but the PD has a pending tax appeal to lower the value to $17.2 million for 2017. "It will be interesting to see what the developer, and the city, ultimately pay for the site," she wrote.)

Cleveland has budgeted $55 million for the purchase and renovation of the location, which was the only site among the finalists under consideration that didn't require entirely new construction. GLP Superior Ltd., a company led by local developer Fred Geis, will technically buy the property and lead the renovations.

The 8.1-acre site has 236,160 square feet of office space, 80,000 square feet of storage and 631 parking spots.

"We're glad that after a series of arms-length negotiations we've been able to reach agreement in principle on terms of the sale," George Rodrigue, president of the PD, said in a statement. "The building has a proud history, and we hope it will serve the needs of the police department well."

“The new police headquarters in the downtown neighborhood is one of the many ways we are moving the division into the future,” Mayor Frank Jackson said in a release. “We are systematically creating the necessary technological and logistical infrastructure to reduce crime while being more open and accessible to the community.” and Advance Ohio will be getting a new home as well, heading to the Western Reserve Building in the Warehouse District, which, coincidentally, Scene previously called home for many years.

Geis also owns that property, originally built for Samuel Mather in 1891 with an adjoining addition constructed in 1990. Purchased from the Ferchill group last November, the building has suffered from lingering vacancies —  Scene's former offices have sat empty since we departed in 2014, and a two-floor office (that seems like a logical landing spot for has laid dormant since KA architecture left in 2015.

"The content and sales teams at Advance Ohio will move into what is becoming a vibrant corner of downtown, near the Flats East Bank. And our current building, which is beautiful but under-used, will see full occupancy, which will be healthy for the neighborhood."

There's some sad poetry to all this... to the Plain Dealer selling its building to the police department it once spent years investigating (to award-winning ends) and its "digital-first"-arm occupants downsizing to a building where Scene spent years holding check on the paper for its less illustrious work (and penning a not insignificant amount of satirical Dick Feagler columns).

Moving is never easy, and we wish the folks at AO/ the very best. In that spirit: We're pretty sure we forgot a half-full bottle of Jameson in an old desk. Feel free to help yourselves.

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