LA Observed file photo
When the Los Angeles Times was spun off into a fledgling new corporate creation called Tribune Publishing in 2014, the flagship home of the Times itself stayed with the old Chicago-based Tribune Company, which became Tribune Media. It was always assumed Tribune wanted to sell the Times building at 1st and Spring streets, and now it apparently is on the verge. The LA Times reports that Canadian developer Onni Group, which has been busy buying up property in the hot downtown market, has a preliminary deal to buy the Times home since the 1930s. The building sits strategically across the intersection from both City Hall and the Police Administration Building, and the Times says that Onni Group plans to redevelop the Times block into modern offices, retail and possibly some residential.
No terms were reported. The Times has a lease until 2018 with five-year options to stay after that, the story says, but the Times newsroom and offices no longer need anywhere close to that much space. What people think of as the LA Times building is really a complex of five buildings erected in different eras, filling the whole block. The newspaper now shares the complex with a variety of tenants and with film location crews that use the empty offices, most notably of the former Times Mirror Corporation, for TV, movie and commercial shooting.
It has felt inevitable that the Times news operation would move out to somewhere with better wiring and digital infrastructure, as the staff has shrunk and the Times has been forced to pay for use of conference rooms and other parts of the facility. Still, the idea of the Times not occupying the building where its name has towered over the city's civic center for decades is grating to many of the past and present inhabitants. There's a conference room on the corner of the sixth floor closest to City Hall that used to be an apartment for the Chandler family. That also used to be the floor where the Times Mirror board met, where the CEO and a platoon of VPs reigned and where the executive dining room, adorned in the day with artwork by Picasso, served visiting politicians and industry titans. I don't know what's up there anymore.
In the Times story, downtown real estate player Hal Bastian says the melding of five different buildings is an issue. “Deep in the bowels there are spaces that have no natural light whatsoever," Bastian says. "How do you make that a pleasant work environment?” The space includes the former press rooms of the Times, and elaborate basement areas. An earlier agreement to sell fell through this year, Tribune media says.
From the LAT story:
Onni has been increasingly active in downtown Los Angeles. It’s working on a high-rise residential tower near the corner of 8th and Hill streets. And last year it opened Level DTLA, a 33-story extended-stay building with fully furnished apartments at 888 S. Olive St. – a project valued at $200 million.
Onni also owns a Beaux Arts loft building on 8th Street, a 1926 office tower on 9th Street and three more modern office buildings in the area. This spring, the company acquired the Western Pacific Building near the corner of 11th Street and Broadway – an area awash in development.
“They are really big believers in the future of downtown,” said Justin Weiss, a senior associate with real estate brokerage Kennedy Wilson, who has not represented the company in a deal.
Onni was named for founder Inno De Cotiis, whose first name spelled backward is Onni. The family-owned company started developing in Canada and now has offices in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago and Mexico.
Separately, the Times' current printing plant on Olympic Boulevard near downtown also is in the process of being sold.