BRADENTON -- The Bradenton Herald will return to its downtown roots Monday when it moves to the newly branded Bradenton Herald Corporate Center.
The center, formerly the Riverview Professional Center, 1111 Third Ave. W., will house the Herald's 80 employees, including news, advertising, circulation and information technology.
"I'm very excited about the move," said Bob Turner, president and publisher of the Bradenton Herald. "I think it's going to be very positive for the Bradenton Herald and its employees, and I think it's going to be very positive for the downtown core, and we're looking forward to being a part of that."
While the building will be a smaller space than the location that once housed the presses in its previous home, the Herald is growing.
"Our operations will stay the same, except for the fact that we've expanded. We're adding positions to our newsroom," Turner said. "We've added positions to our advertising, and we're back on a very good growth track."
Monday will mark a soft opening for the Herald, and a community open house will be planned for a later date, Turner said. The Herald's business hours will continue to be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Joan Krauter, vice president and executive editor, called the move a "refreshing start" and a signal of an industry shift that lessens the importance of office space to deliver award-winning news.
"You can do journalism from anywhere," Krauter said. "We're so much more mobile now."
While the Herald staff will move to Third Avenue, the newspaper's archive of photos, newspaper clippings, aerials, microfilm, death notices and assorted directories have been donated to the Manatee County Historical Records Library, 1405 Fourth St. W. The historical records can be inspected from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday except holidays.
As the Herald staff gets acquainted with the new space, the popular Happy First Birthday photos offered free to 1-year-olds will continue on Tuesdays, but will be canceled this week to allow the photography studio to be completed, Krauter said.
The new office is also designed to help enhance customer service.
No longer will customers with inquiries for the classifieds department have to walk in and pick up a phone to do business. A classifieds receptionist will be staffed at the front desk to assist customers, said Darren Haimer, vice president of advertising.
Overall, doing business with the Herald should be easier in the downtown setting.
"We'll have an updated Voice Over IP phone system that will help get their business done much, much faster," Turner said.
A wheelchair-accessible counter is installed at the receptionist's desk, and parking will be easier, too, he said.
Bay News 9 will continue as the Herald's news partner, with plans to move its cameras early this week into the new newsroom.
"Bay News 9 is excited about renewing our long time partnership with the Bradenton Herald in their new facility," said Mike Gautreau, senior director of news for Bay News 9. "Together as a team we have been the best source of news and information for people of Manatee County for many years and look forward to continuing that tradition."
A move with heart
The Herald has continued to raise funds for the United Way through its move by selling items in the building to employees and the public with all of the proceeds going to the United Way. A one-day event for the public to buy remaining fixtures and equipment will be held soon, Turner said. Any remaining items will be primarily donated to the United Way and thrift stores that support philanthropic groups in Manatee County.
The Bradenton Herald Corporate Center has undergone an extensive renovation to host the Herald, as well as upgrades to second-floor offices and the entryway, said Hugh Miller, owner of Miller Enterprises of Manatee, and the Bradenton Herald Corporate Center. The Herald's name will soon be featured prominently on the building.
The new building name also offers a sense of familiarity to the community.
"It was really an effort to put a name on the building that was recognizable in the community, and certainly the Bradenton Herald is a recognizable figure," Miller said.
The corporate center has 1,500 square feet of office space remaining, and is otherwise fully leased, Miller said.
Turner has worked for the Herald since 1979, and this will mark his third office building.
"This building was fresh and new when it was built. It was very exciting, but it was built as a production plant," Turner said. "We outsource our production now, and so it's time to move to a new and exciting venue."
Mayor Wayne Poston has a unique perspective on the move, being a former executive editor of the Herald before he took political office in 1999. Poston was part of the team to plan and build the Herald's Manatee Avenue building.
"It breaks my heart that you're vacating the building because I was part of the team that built the building," Poston said.
At the same time, Poston is excited the newspaper will be in the city's core along Old Main Street, in view of the river and City Hall.
"We want the newspaper to be in the city. We didn't want you to move out, and we're glad you can find a site, and find another one in the city," Poston said. "It'll be a good thing for us, and good for the merchants because it'll bring more people downtown."
Future of Manatee Avenue site
The future of the Bradenton Herald's Manatee Avenue office remains unresolved.
Turner noted that the Herald leases the current building from the pension fund. The 10-year lease has a $4 million aggregate annual rent paid to the pension fund. He said he is not privy to negotiations of the Manatee Avenue site, which has been on the market since 2009.
WhiteStar Advisors, a real estate assets management company for McClatchy's pension fund, filed a preliminary application with the city of Bradenton in the spring, and plans show a three-story, 55,000-square-foot medical office building featuring Coastal Orthopedic's name, plotted on vacant land where Golden Raintrees, royal poincianas and live oaks buffer the building.
The property is under contract for an undisclosed amount. The deal is expected to close by early January, but could be moved up pending city approval, James Bishop, president and chief executive officer of WhiteStar Advisors, told the Herald in May.
Acquisition Advisors, which has offices in South Florida, will oversee development of the property. The company specializes in real estate development for health-care companies, according to its website.
A redevelopment plan for the Manatee Avenue site has not been approved yet by city officials. The property is zoned for light industrial use, and remaining tenants have not been announced.
A second phase of redevelopment will be announced later for four acres where the Herald building now stands, according to the plans.
Valerie Morse, a spokeswoman for Coastal, said Friday she didn't have any new information on Coastal's decision whether to come to the Herald site. Morse told the Herald in May that the Manatee Avenue site was one of several locations the firm is considering, and had not signed a lease for the space.
Bradenton-based Coastal Orthopedics specializes in sports medicine and pain management, working with athletes from the Pittsburgh Pirates, U.S. Soccer, IMG Academy and the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. The company has offices in west Bradenton, East Manatee, Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota.
Officials involved in the redevelopment of the Herald property were expected to meet with city officials at the end of August, but have not scheduled another meeting at City Hall, said Tim Polk, director of planning and community development for Bradenton. The Herald property is in the midst of an environmental assessment.
The Herald has called 102 Manatee Ave. W. home since July 1984, when then-owner Knight-Ridder Newspapers opened the doors. Before then, the Herald was at 401 13th St. W., since September 1922. That space was renovated in 1951 and again in 1966 before moving to Manatee Avenue on the former Atwood Estate, which was once a tree nursery.
The Herald began as a weekly on Sept. 15, 1922 and merged with the Manatee River Journal to become the Evening Herald until 1926, when it became the Bradenton Herald.
The paper was sold in 1925 to the R.W. Page Corp., of Columbus, Ga., and then sold to Knight Newspapers Inc. in 1973. Knight merged with Ridder Publications the following year to become Knight-Ridder.
The building was engineered to have a third floor, but the Herald and its parent company declined to expand the space.
Before the Manatee Avenue property was a tree nursery, the land was reclaimed from the Manatee River, and when the Herald purchased the site, staff discovered that the land was once used as a mooring area for a paddlewheel boat.
Krauter has fond memories of the Herald's Manatee Avenue home since her arrival in 1998, where through intrepid reporting her staffs chronicled hurricanes, a Great Recession and a revitalization of Manatee County.
"It's amazing how much our staff works and effects change in the community," Krauter said. "That's what surprised me the most coming from bigger cities and bigger newspapers. Bradenton Herald is so much a part of this community."
McClatchy bought Knight-Ridder (and the Herald) in 2006, and the Herald then sold its building in 2011 to the McClatchy pension fund for $4.77 million as part of a larger strategy for McClatchy to fund required pension contributions.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.