With all due respect to the comfy but musty digs depicted in All the President’s Men, the Washington Post newsroom and the newspaper’s headquarters building are sitting on prime real estate that could fetch nearly $100 million, according to local brokers and developers.
“It makes sense to sell the headquarters,” says one developer. “The building is close to the end of its physical life, and it costs lots to operate. It also has great value.”
Since the Post announced last week it was putting its iconic HQ on the market, parlor games in the newsroom and among real estate pros have revolved around how much the property would fetch and where the Post might move.
The Post’s logo adorns 1150 15th Street, Northwest, where it once printed newspapers. Reporters, editors, and back office workers occupy the upper floors. Don Graham’s executive offices are on the top floor. But the name-brand building doesn’t encompass the Post’s downtown holdings.
The Washington Post’s property wraps around the corner of 15th and L Street streets and continues west on L Street toward 16th.
“That’s a big lot of ground,” says a commercial real estate broker. “It could be a class A trophy building if it’s developed in one piece.”
The District of Columbia assesses the 1150 15th Street headquarters at $72,863,300. If the Post can join that property with 1515 L Street and 1523 L Street, brokers estimate the value at more than $100 million.
“The Post figures it can operate more efficiently and reduce real estate costs once they move,” says a broker.
But where? DC mayor Vincent Gray is lobbying to keep the Post in its hometown; suburban executives are luring it across the border.
If the Post stays in the District, it is likely to find a cheaper home in one of three neighborhoods: NoMa, north of Union Station, where CNN and NPR have landed; the Anacostia Riverfront near the Nationals Park; or the more industrial frontier of Eckington along New York Avenue in the Northeast.
“Or they could split the staff,” says another real estate broker. “They could keep the reporters and executives downtown and move the back-office employees to the suburbs.”
That’s the play many New York banks have been making for decades: The executives have a Manhattan address and a logo, but most of the staff works across the river in New Jersey. Or, in this case, Rosslyn.
“That would be a great savings,” says a broker.
The Post also announced it was putting its riverfront properties in Alexandria on the market, which will allow it to save more.
But would it be enough to save the jobs of journalists and preserve the quality of journalism? Real estate revenues and savings will help, but the newspaper division is still losing millions of dollars a year.
Selling property and reducing costs will certainly buy time and ease pressure from the Washington Post Company board of directors.