So the Washington Post is considering a move from its 63-year-old headquarters. The Post has enjoyed its most glorious highs and some recent lows in its home at 1150 15th St. NW. A move now would raise two questions: Where’s the Post headed, and what will become of its storied downtown building?
This morning’s news already has local Post reporters speculating that the paper could be Virginia-bound. Mike DeBonis tweeted, “Will the Post stay in D.C.? Not a forgone conclusion. Remember http://wpost.com was originally based in right-to-work Virginia.” Tim Craig replied, “I agree. Wouldnt be surprised if we ended up in Virginia…Wonder if Gray will try to keep us, or even wants us lol. lol.”
The paper’s split-newsroom experiment, which saw the print operations carried out on 15th Street while the Web team worked across the river in Arlington, came to an end in 2009. By most accounts, it was a failure that treated Web reporting as separate and secondary and made coordination difficult. But could the reintegrated paper end up back across the river? New Executive Editor Marty Baron has indicated that he wants to double down on Metro coverage. The question is how much of that coverage will be of the District proper. A move to Virginia would be a symbolic admission that the Post‘s strength is in the suburbs.
And what would become of the iconic 15th Street building? Publisher Katharine Weymouth declined to place a value on the property (and adjacent Post-owned addresses on L Street); the city assessed them at close to $80 million. (The company built its headquarters back in 1950 for just $6 million.) According to the Post, Michael Darby of Monument Realty has been trying gather investors to buy a neighboring property on Post-owned land with the possible goal of consolidating the block, and that he’d help the Post relocate if his group bought its building.
But owning adjacent properties is most valuable if you plan to tear them down and put something new in their place. That could well be the fate of the Post building. Having worked there, I can say that it’s functional as a newsroom, where proximity to TV screens and editors is more important than window access. But its layout would be difficult for a more traditional office, given that most desks in the newsrooms are a long way from the nearest window. It’s also not the most attractive building.
A good analoguehere is the NPR headquarters at Mount Vernon Square. The broadcaster is in the process of moving out of its wedge-shaped building to a new home in NoMa. And what’s the new owner of its old property, Boston Properties Inc., planning to do with it? Tear it down in April. The same fate could await the monolithic Post headquarters—-should the move go through.