Ian reports that the Providence Journal’s parent company, A.H. Belo Corporation of Dallas is accepting proposals to buy the newspapers real estate assets, including the Fountain Street headquarters. The four properties up for sale may have a combined assessed value up to $33.2 million.
While this further sign of the struggles within the mainstream media industry (ProJo will continue to operate (for now) likely leasing it’s offices from a new building owner) it could be good news for Downcity. In addition to the Fountain Street office, Belo is also selling the Parkade Garage on Washington Street (which has a retail space that ProJo has been unable or unwilling to fill, most recently occupied by GroundWork Providence), the surface lot between Washington and Fountain along Matthewson Street, and I’m not positive but I think the 4th parcel would be the surface lot behind the Parkade Garage at the corner of Emmet Square.
These surface lots represent stubborn holes in the urban fabric of Downcity. When Andres Duany last charretted in Providence, he proposed a Downcity movie theatre as a possibility for the Matthewson Street lot. Of course there is every possibility that a new owner for these parcels would be happy to just contunue parking cars, and with the current state of the economy, I don’t expect any cranes to be piercing the skyline soon (even if Belo can find a buyer), but these are strategic spaces in our city’s core and hopefully someone with a vision for them will scoop them up.
Ian follows himself up with some thoughts about what the sale of the ProJo HQ says about the state of the news industry in general (hint: it doesn’t say anything good).
And Beth over at the Daily Dose points out how our democracy needs the Fourth Estate and that us bloggers do to. I was speaking with a reporter last night from one of the other local papers (hint, not the one selling all it’s property and not the one with the adult classifieds folded into it) and telling him how we really rely on the people who collect news for a living to go out there and break the stories for us. We bloggers who have day jobs and no training on all things journalistic are then able to take what the pros report and comment on it. Without full time reporters covering City Hall and the State House, imagine how much worse off we would be.
Interestingly enough, although Duany singled out the surface lot along Matthewson and Washington for a theater, the reality is that a widely celebrated vaudeville playhouse by the name of Fay’s Theater was demolished in the 50s to create that parking lot behind the Parkade.