U-T subletting newsroom space

Adieu to 25 percent of "cool" millennial digs

"Full Floor Opportunity," says the notice for the 14,791 square-foot sublease.
  • "Full Floor Opportunity," says the notice for the 14,791 square-foot sublease.

When the San Diego Union-Tribune announced in November 2015 that it would vacate its 43-year-old Mission Valley headquarters in favor of a $40 million, 15-year lease of four floors in a downtown high-rise, the paper spun the move as good news for the city.

U-T president Russ Newton was proud to be "moving to the heart of San Diego.” He doesn't work there anymore.

U-T president Russ Newton was proud to be "moving to the heart of San Diego.” He doesn't work there anymore.

"It reaffirms our commitment to San Diego,” the U-T quoted its then-president Russ Newton as saying about the 600 B Street deal, which included installing the paper's illuminated nameplate at the top of the north and south sides of the building. “We’re moving to the heart of San Diego.”

Robert York, the U-T’s then–vice president of strategy and operations, was paraphrased as saying, "The $6.8 million build-out of the space exudes a bit of the 'cool' open ceiling and flexible floor plan desired by millennials."

Noted a May 2016 piece heralding the relocation, "The newsroom is on floors nine and 10, and advertising, circulation, and other departments are on the 11th and 12th floors."

Some skeptics weren't sure how long the tenancy would last, noting that the U-T’s future as a free-standing newspaper was already uncertain under tronc, the paper’s tumult-prone Chicago owner, which also runs the L.A. Times, where the San Diego paper is printed.

Besides, the 1970s-era building had been occupied by a succession of bad-luck tenants, including the failed Great American Bank and controversial for-profit Bridgepoint University, making it a dubious venue for a new start.

Now the curse of 600 B may have returned, as heralded by a display advertisement discreetly nestled in the U-T's Sunday real estate section.

"Full Floor Opportunity," says the notice for the 14,791 square-foot sublease. "Asking rate negotiable." Features noted by listing broker CBRE include "Floor to ceiling glass"; "Open, exposed ceiling"; and "Multiple interior office and conference rooms."

A brochure for the listing posted online by CBRE identifies the space as the ninth floor of 600 B, where reporters and editors had once been expected to toil in high-tech splendor. Photos show a Union-Tribune logo on the wall of the gleaming elevator bay and banks of unoccupied white desks, chairs, tables, wall paintings, refrigerator, and computer furniture, offered for possible use by prospective tenants.

Meanwhile, the executives who the paper quoted touting the paper's move have departed San Diego, per their LinkedIn profiles. Ex-U-T president Newton is in Texas as executive director of operations at Hearst’s San Antonio Express-News, and former vice-president York is publisher and editor-in-chief of the Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a tronc property.

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As the UT ship of state gets closer and closer to the drain, the faster and faster it circles. From its once proud, gleaming glass and brick headquarters site in Mission Valley, to four, no, now three floors in someone else’s building. A building as Matt points out has housed some of San Diego’s worse business failures. It may be in the heart of San Diego, but this tenant has coronary condition and nothing but a transplant to LA is going to save it.

Was that display ad "discretely" nestled or discreetly nestled in the Sunday real estate section? Homophones are hell.

Any office building, after a few decades, will have hosted businesses that failed, or departed when they shut down. This one isn't unique in that regard. There is more to the Great American story, though. That institution was flying very high until shortly before it collapsed, and had plans for something far more grand than 600 B Street. It had made a deal with the developer of a new high-rise tower to be the anchor tenant, and to have the building named for itself. Have you ever wondered why the tallest structure in downtown SD has the odd name of One America Plaza? It was going to be named Great American Plaza, to honor the city's largest bank/thrift institution. But before it was completed, Great American was history, and keeping that name made no sense at all. They changed it, but not much, into what it is called today.

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