June 27, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Gilbert buys home of Detroit News and Free Press

Detroit — Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services added to its collection of landmark downtown buildings with the purchase of the Detroit Media Partnership building, 615 W. Lafayette, the current home of The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.

The acquisition includes the building and 600 parking spaces. The purchase price was not disclosed. The list price was $8 million. Bedrock is one of the many units of billionaire Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans Inc.

“The Detroit Media Partnership building is a historic gem that has been a fixture in downtown Detroit for nearly a century,” said Jim Ketai, Bedrock’s CEO and Managing Partner, in a written statement. “We take great pride in breathing new life into Detroit’s historic buildings and look forward to transforming the DMP building to provide forward-thinking, growth-oriented companies a new place to call home.”

In the fall, the two newsrooms and the Detroit Media Partnership, DMP, will move about 550 workers into another downtown building owned by Gilbert’s Bedrock, the former Federal Reserve Bank at 160 W. Fort Street. The DMP manages the business operations for both media outlets.

The newsrooms will each have their own floors — The News will be on the third and Free Press on the second. Each of the newsrooms will have a little over 20,000 square-feet, according to the commercial real estate database Costar. Six floors in total will be used by the DMP and The News and Free Press.

The Federal Reserve property was built in 1927 and a marble annex designed by noted Detroit architect Minoru Yamasaki was added in 1951. Bedrock has renovated the entire building. That includes suitable technology upgrades for the newsrooms to accommodate a larger online audience through e-Editions, videos and other content for computers, tablets and mobile devices.

The Lafayette building just bought by Bedrock has been home to The News since 1917, when the Albert Kahn-designed structure opened. In 1998, the Free Press left its old quarters, a few blocks east on Lafayette, and moved into separate space in the building.

“This building has really served us well, but we’ve outgrown the building in that it is not designed for our digital needs,” Joyce Jenereaux, president of the DMP, said in an earlier statement.

The former Free Press building, recently bought by Chinese investors through auction, has remained empty. The Chinese investment group vows the building will be renovated.

Newsrooms have been dramatically restructured in the 21st century as the journalism industry faced seismic shifts from primarily print-based operations to new, digital platforms.

The Lafayette building that Bedrock just bought takes up the entire block between Lafayette and Fort, and Second and Third in downtown Detroit, just off the Lodge Freeway. Besides the six-story building, the purchase includes a nine-story parking structure, two lots and limited parking attached to the building.

Jenereaux praised the deal in a written statement: “It is very comforting to know that this property will be part of Detroit’s comeback after serving the city so powerfully all of these years.”

Future plans for the Lafayette building were not disclosed, but Bedrock will oversee the redevelopment and leasing. Bedrock and its affiliates now own, control or manage more than 60 properties in Detroit’s urban core, totaling more than 9 million square feet of space.

Since 2011, Bedrock has recruited more than 120 tenants downtown, investing more than $1.3 billion in downtown Detroit real estate.

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The Detroit Media Partnership Building, home of The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press, at the corner of Lafayette and Third in Detroit. / John T. Greilick / The Detroit News