The owner of The Kansas City Star has a tentative agreement to sell the newspaper’s headquarters at 1729 Grand Blvd., since 1911 a downtown landmark where a young Ernest Hemingway once reported.
McClatchy Corp., the owner of The Star, has reached a “handshake agreement” with a developer who wants to convert the building into “modern, creative space,” says Randy Getz of CBRE Group, the broker representing McClatchy, which is based in Sacramento, Calif.
Getz, however, cautions that much work needs to be done before an actual sale occurs.
“A letter of intent is an agreement to agree,” he says. “It’s the documentary equivalent of a warm handshake.”
Tony Berg, publisher of The Star, told employees late Wednesday afternoon that a sale of the historic building was in the works, according to Matt Campbell, a reporter at the newspaper.
“The group that gathered here today numbered about 100,” Campbell posted on Facebook. “We were told the population of the (1729 Grand Blvd.) building is now 243 ... There used to be 1,700-1,800 people in this building.
“We’re told the buyer of the old building wants to convert it to commercial and residential use. We survivors are going to move to the green glass printing building at 16th and McGee in about a year.”
Campbell authenticated his Facebook post in a brief interview Thursday and granted permission to quote from it.
Executives at The Star did not return calls seeking comment.
Tina Tedesco, a spokeswoman for McClatchy, responded in an email: “I can tell you that we do not have a sales agreement for the KC Star properties and, beyond that, we have no further comment.”
McClatchy announced last week it was pursuing a sale and lease-back deal for both the historic building and the block-long, glass printing plant across the street at 17th and McGee. The total asking price was $46 million.
The printing plant opened in 2006 at a cost of $200 million. Three parcels totaling 8.3 acres and 650,000 square feet of space were listed in the sale and lease-back offering.
McClatchy said that as part of the sale and lease-back proposal, the newspaper would execute a 15-year lease for the property. CBRE Group was listed as the broker.
Getz says McClatchy has now decided to pursue the sale lease-back of the printing facility on McGee separately from the historic structure at 1729 Grand, an Italian Renaissance-style building designed by Jarvis Hunt, the designer of Union Station. He declines to discuss the tentative purchase price of the old building. Within the past 10 years, the first floor advertising space and second floor newsroom underwent extensive remodeling.
In his Facebook post, Campbell described the long, colorful history of journalism at The Star’s historic offices.
“A century or so of history was reported and written in that second-floor newsroom,” he wrote. “It used to be full of smoke and bottles in desk drawers.
“You can almost hear the wind in here now. If you wander this building--actually two buildings that were strangely fused long ago--you find many weird spaces. It’s a great place.
“(Star founder) William Rockhill Nelson’s old office at the southeast corner of the newsroom is now a place where reporters learn how to do their own videos.
“It won’t be the same, but The Star will still be looking over the city.”
Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.