Is 3800 Howard Ave. headed way of HQs at Advance’s Alabama newspapers?

Birmingham News‘ and Mobile Press-Register‘s offices for sale after Alabama Media Group opens “modern, high-tech space easy for the public to access” in Huntsville and Montgomery, and moves much of NOLA Media Group and Syracuse Media Group to new digs

FOR SALE: Downtown newspaper headquarters in two of the Heart of Dixie’s largest cities. One built in 2002, the other in 2006. Instant income at Mobile facility through lease-back agreement of production plant with existing owner.

BhamNewsHQ

Birmingham News’ downtown headquarters is on the market.

Alabama Media Group earlier today announced its next steps in embracing Advance Publications’ new “digital first” playbook. It will move its remaining employees from relatively new downtown offices in the state’s largest and third-largest cities “to space … more suitable for the companies’ digitally-focused operations.”

In a tweet earlier today, Scott Walker, an anchor at New Orleans’ WDSU-TV, asked if The Times-Picayune‘s longtime headquarters at 3800 Howard Ave. will be next up on the auction block. Most NOLA Media Group employees moved to new penthouse offices in Canal Place last week, although some production and editing function remain at the old facility, along with the printing presses and circulation/delivery functions and their employees. No announcements have been made about the large portions of the building that are now empty.ScottWalkerTweet2013Jan22

NOLA Media Group’s new space also belies the “easy for the public to access” mantra adopted by other Advance locations. The offices are on the 31st and 32nd floors of the highrise at the foot of Canal Street at the Mississippi River and adjacent to the French Quarter – which is often one of the most congested and difficult-to-navigate areas in the city. Some employees already have raised concerns about their ability to quickly get to breaking news from the location, especially during high-traffic events such as Carnival and Feb. 3′s Super Bowl, which is being played at the city’s Superdome.

The report on AL.com followed by two days a similar story on Advance’s Syracuse.com offering details of the new space it will occupy along with the city’s newspaper. “Unlike The Post-Standard newsroom, where desk phones ring at cubicles and papers overflow from filing cabinets, the new location is mostly open space with a variety of work stations, but no assigned seats and no place to store documents or display personal effects,” according to a story by reporter Tim Knauss.

Beginning Feb. 3, The Post-Standard and sister paper the Harrisburg, Pa. Patriot News, will follow the lead of The Times-Picayune and Advance’s Alabama and Michigan papers, and reduce home delivery to three days a week. However, diehard print Post-Standard readers are getting a concession not being offered in other markets: it also will be printed the remaining four days a week and be available at newsstands in Syracuse’s Onondaga County.

In December, the company announced that it would move the Huntsville Times – “the birth city of AL.com 15 years ago,” Alabama Media Group President Cindy Martin told WHNT-TV - downtown from its longtime home on the city’s Memorial Parkway main drag. The company also has opened new, modern offices in Montgomery, the state’s capital.

The 110,000-square-foot home of the Birmingham News and its parking lot across the street, will be sold, AL.com reported, while the company will keep the adjacent production facility. In Mobile, the company intends to sell both the office and production plant, but wants to lease back the plant from the new owner.

The story also included another, albeit unrelated, tidbit: circulation of Advance’s Alabama  newspapers has decreased since the Oct.1 advent of thrice-weekly publication, Pam Siddall, president of Advance Central Services Alabama, told AL.com’s statewide industry reporter Dawn Kent. Sidall did not quantify the drop, but said circulation “remains above expectations.” Her statement is in contrast to those made by NOLA Media Group representatives, who have said The Times-Picayune‘s circulation has increased since its switch to three-day-a-week circulation.

Advance may have difficulty finding buyers for such large spaces, according to Kent’s report. Several large buildings are already available in Birmingham, and “we just don’t get the influx of companies that size that are looking in Birmingham,” local real estate agent Dan Lovell commented.