After eight decades in the heart of downtown Long Beach, the Press-Telegram will move this weekend from its historic building at 604 Pine Ave. to leased space in a glass office tower half a mile away.
It is a bittersweet step for Long Beach's paper of record, which published at other locations before moving into the Italian Renaissance Revival building when it was completed in 1925.
The move to more modern digs was a business choice: Leasing is cheaper by more than a $1 a square foot than retrofitting or rebuilding. And as they packed up everything but their desks this week, editors and reporters said they do look forward to finally having hot water, heat and air conditioning.
But they also were wistful about leaving behind so much history and lore.
"You could actually feel the paper being printed as the presses rumbled below us," said Executive Editor Rich Archbold, offering a tour of the second-floor newsroom, which vibrated every evening until the printing operation moved to Valencia in 1998.
"When I started working here" in 2002, said news reporter Karen Robes, "one of the things I really loved was the old building."
Harold Glickman started at "the PT," as locals call it, as a copy editor 32 years ago. He remembers that the paper had just installed what he thinks might have been the first computers at a Southern California newspaper, and they automatically made sure that headlines fit. Glickman is now associate editor of the editorial pages.
"I love this old building," he said. "But I think it makes all the sense in the world to go over there" to the new headquarters.
Come Monday morning, the public can find the newspaper in one of the side-by-side Arco Center towers on Ocean Boulevard. The gleaming green glass high-rises are across the street from the World Trade Center and Hilton Hotel, and diagonally across from the bedraggled Long Beach Courthouse.
The old structure's declining state led to the decision to move from the building where 215 employees work, Publisher Mark Stevens said.
On Thursday, Stevens and others gave a presentation and tours of the old building for the public.
As for the old Press-Telegram building, it is slated to eventually house 542 loft housing units, have ground-floor retail space and provide a home for the Long Beach Arts Council. Cal State Long Beach is to get 60 below-market-rate housing units for college professors and staff.
In the new building, some of the newspaper operation will be on the ground floor, and the rest will take up the 12th and 14th floors (there are no 13th floors in this and other nearby high-rises). The new newsroom is open and expansive with an ocean view, several editors said, whereas the old building has low ceilings and has been remodeled in a hodgepodge way over the years, creating strange long hallways and divided quarters for departments such as advertising.
Then there is the "stairway to nowhere," as John Canalis, assistant editor of the editorial pages, put it.
After the printing of the paper moved off the property, various walls to the docks where the papers were loaded onto delivery trucks got sealed off. Ever since, there are half a dozen steps that climb into a blank wall.
"We don't use a third of the space in this building," said Larry Allison, editor of the editorial pages. "Most of it's like a tomb."
Still, he has worked in the building off and on for almost 50 years and first saw it when he was a child and his father applied for a job there.
"It's a big thing to move," acknowledged Allison, who started at the paper in high school driving ad proofs to clients and returned as a reporter in 1957. He worked his way up to become city editor, even photo editor, leaving for management jobs at other newspapers before returning as editor in 1978. Thirteen years later, when a new publisher arrived, he moved to the opinion department.
Like many staffers who have spent most of their careers at the paper, Allison is a keeper of its history as well as that of the community.
In a 42-page special section published Sunday, Press-Telegram writers offered their memories and wrote about the building's unique role in downtown and civic life. Quirky details and insider lore were told. On opening day, between 20,000 and 25,000 visitors streamed through the building, which publisher William Prisk said cost about $285,000. It was designed by architect W. Horace Austin, who had created the look of whole parts of Long Beach by designing many of its institutional buildings as the city was growing in the early part of the 1900s.
Over the years, the ownership and publishers changed as at other newspapers; but the building, like the newspaper, serves to anchor the city and give it voice, Archbold said.
He arrived as managing editor expecting to move on to a bigger paper in a few years, but he fell in love with Long Beach and the unique role the Press-Telegram has as the city's only major daily newspaper. It has a daily circulation of 96,000 and 107,000 on Sundays.
In a column that will run Sunday, he points out that change can be hard but good, like trading familiar old shoes for new ones. He did try to get the developer taking on the old building to make a "Rich Archbold's office" loft. He was told it would cost him only half a million.
"So it's going to be a good thing," Archbold said this week. "We'll do what we've always done for the community."
But when they turn out the lights for the last time, he added, "I think it's going to be pretty emotional for people."