February 19, 2014 at 1:00 am

Detroit News, Free Press may have found new home

The original building of the former Federal Reserve at 160 W. Fort in downtown Detroit was built in 1927. The annex was added in 1951. (Detroit Media Partnership)

The business agency of Detroit’s two major dailies announced Wednesday night that it is working on a long-term lease to move the newsrooms into the former Federal Reserve Building downtown after a 13-month search.

The Detroit Media Partnership, which manages the business operations of The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, has “agreed to basic business terms” to relocate five blocks to 160 W. Fort Street, a building owned and under renovation by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert and his Bedrock Real Estate Services.

Joyce Jenereaux, president of the partnership, said “if all goes as we expect,” the move would take place by the end of September.

If a lease is signed, the newspapers and agency, representing about 500 people, “will be the largest tenant” of the building at the corner of Fort and Shelby streets “with a sign hanging on the exterior.”

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

The potential move, Jenereaux said, will allow for a more digitally focused workplace.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is go into spaces that are aligned to our digital media organizations,” Jenereaux said. “The Federal Reserve Building is exactly what we’re looking for and has the collaborative workspace that we need.”

The partnership announced in January 2013 that it planned to move to accommodate a larger online audience with the dailies’ e-Editions, videos and other content for computers and tablets as well as mobile devices.

The 141-year-old News has occupied its address at 615 W. Lafayette, near the Lodge Freeway, since 1917, when the Albert Kahn-designed facility opened. The Detroit Media Partnership was formed in 1989 and joined The News in its building. In 1998, the Free Press left its old quarters, a few blocks east, and moved into separate space in The News building.

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

The Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago left the building downtown in 2004, relocating to Warren Avenue near Eastern Market. An attached, eight-story glass and marble annex was built in 1951, and designed by the famed architect Minoru Yamasaki.

In January 2012, Gilbert announced he had bought the building. Gilbert’s Rock Ventures owns about 40 downtown properties, encompassing 8 million square feet, including parking structures, according to the company.

Of concerns about the newspapers becoming tenants of Gilbert, who often is the subject of news stories in both dailies, Jenereaux said: “These type of transactions happen all the time. This will happen on the partnership level and will have no impact on that at all.”

tbriscoe@detroitnews.com
Stacy Sominski contributed.