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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

AJC may abandon Marietta Street

click to enlarge Atlanta Constitution, circa 1890
  • Atlanta Constitution, circa 1890

We'd heard this rumor a couple weeks back, but former AJC bidness columnist Maria Saporta had the inside contacts to nail it down first: Atlanta's daily newspaper is considering relocating its offices out of downtown Atlanta for the first time in its 141-year history.

Saporta, now a contributor to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, got her mitts on an Aug. 3 internal memo written by new AJC publisher Michael Joseph:

“The cost of operating the downtown building is very high. Since moving production out to Gwinnett, we occupy less than 30 percent of the facility. As a result, the expense to operate the building is exorbitant. No decision has been made at this time, but we are looking at options including maintaining our current downtown location or relocating to a new, smaller site in the greater Atlanta area. I will keep you informed and share any updates on this issue.”

Keep in mind that the company owns — not leases — the building at 72 Marietta St. While Joseph doesn't specifically rule out finding another building downtown, it's tough to imagine the AJC could find suitable rental space that would be cheaper than property it already owns.

Or did own. There's another rumor swirling around that the Marietta Street building has already been sold, but that will have to remain unconfirmed for now.

If the newspaper is to move outside downtown, there are a couple of obvious choices, both of which Saporta mentions and both of which are OTP — one OTPer than the other.

The first is the HQ of the paper's parent company, Cox Enterprises, off Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, a stone's throw for Perimeter Mall. I've heard that building is quite posh, so they probably wouldn't wanted it sullied by workaday reporters. Just across I-285 on Lake Hearn Drive — next to the new Perimeter Center Parkway overpass — is the Cox Communications building

The other obvious possibility is the AJC's Gwinnett plant on Best Friend Road, which now houses its printing press and the county news bureau. It's hard to picture a staff of several hundred people cramming into that facility.

If the paper hadn't sold off the old Gwinnett Daily News overlooking I-85 in Norcross and built in 1990 on Arthur Sulzberger's dime, it could've moved in there. Oh, well.

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