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Tribune sells downtown building, seeks new offices

TAMPA — A South Florida developer has closed on a deal to purchase the headquarters of The Tampa Tribune, paving the way for development of a 400-unit residential complex on the west bank of the Hillsborough River.

The newspaper’s staff will remain at the 202 S. Parker St. address until demolition starts, likely in May. Tribune Publisher Brian Burns said Friday the newspaper is consulting with relocation experts on a future site for the main newsroom and support operations.

“The Tampa Tribune fully intends to remain a viable part of the Tampa Bay community and a watchdog for our consumers, subscribers and advertisers,” Burns said.

Tampa Media Group, owner of the Tribune, sold the building to The Related Group of Miami. A deed filed with the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court put the sale price at $17.75 million.

Tampa Media Group is a subsidiary of Revolution Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment group that acquired the Tribune from Media General of Richmond, Virginia, in October 2012.

Related Group has developed luxury condominium projects in downtown Miami, Miami Beach and Broward County, and one on the drawing boards in Atlanta. Related Group built the Pierhouse at Channelside apartment complex, with 356 units, and is building a 21-story apartment tower on Harbour Island with 340 units.

The company has filed plans for an eight-story, 400-unit residential complex with a 10,000-square-foot restaurant on the Tribune site.

In addition to the newsroom, the Tribune building houses TBO.com, the Spanish language weekly newspaper Centro, advertising, circulation and support functions. The four-acre headquarters also houses the paper’s printing presses.

Burns said the newspaper is exploring options for printing, including contracting with other press operations or acquiring newer presses for printing at a new location.

“The sale of our property creates liquidity with cash flow, and will assist us in reinvestment into our circulation and marketing while also paying down debt,” Burns said.

The Tribune, which has been publishing daily since 1895, built its current headquarters on the site of a former Tampa Electric Co. generating plant in 1975. In 2000, the newspaper joined TBO.com and WFLA NewsChannel 8, another Media General property, in a converged News Center next door at 200 S. Parker Street.

When Media General sold the newspaper to Tampa Media Group in 2012, Tribune and TBO.com employees moved back across the breezeway to the 202 S. Parker Street building. The News Center building is still home to WFLA and was not part of the deal announced Friday.

Newspapers around Florida and across the country have been unloading expensive downtown real estate in the era of digital communication and mobile news gathering. The headquarters of the Lakeland Ledger, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and Tampa Bay Times, formerly the St. Petersburg Times, are on the market. The iconic Miami Herald headquarters on Biscayne Bay has been razed for a potential mega-casino development, with that newspaper relocating to suburban Doral.

The Tribune deal represents further confidence in downtown Tampa’s residential real estate market. While much attention has been focused on the Channelside and downtown core areas, where Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has proposed a $1 billion redevelopment of roughly 40 acres, the city and developers have also homed in on the west bank of the Hillsborough River.

The city has budgeted an initial $8 million of what is expected to be a $20 million overhaul of the Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park north of the University of Tampa, and farther north, it is transforming 120 acres from blocks of public housing to a rebuilt community of walkable streets and free-standing homes.

Developer Hillsborough River Realty has assembled just over six acres along the river at Kennedy Boulevard that has permitting for 900,000 square feet of mixed use.

“We’ve said from the moment we set foot in the office, the goal was to make the river the center of our urban existence, not the western edge,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. The Tribune deal, Buckhorn said, “is the first big step and a significant signal that this is going to happen. I think other investment will follow.”

jstockfisch@tampatrib.com

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