Former L.A. Times plant in Costa Mesa may become creative office space


The former Los Angeles Times newsroom and printing plant in Costa Mesa that once churned out daily newspapers could soon be home to a much hotter commodity — creative office space.

Kearny Real Estate Co. plans to spend more than $100 million turning the former plant at 1375 Sunflower Ave. and adjacent property, about 25 acres in total, into 300,000 square feet of trendy, open office space many companies desire but that’s in short supply in Orange County.

The project, called The Press, would hark back to the property’s former newspaper uses — something Jeff Dritley, managing partner of the Los Angeles developer, thinks tenants want.


“We’re going to play off that history, that authenticity of the building,” he said. “All that stuff makes it cool.”

Renderings include images of printing presses throughout the interior.

Kearny plans to keep the shell of the vacant existing building and modify it for new uses. Portions of it have 50-foot-tall clearances “that will give way to multitiered, high-volume tenant spaces,” the company said in a news release. “Exterior full-height glass panels and an expansive grid of skylights will flood the building with natural light.”

“Tenants like a lot of volume, they like a lot of light, they like a lot of interaction between the indoors and outdoors — that’s hard to find,” Dritley said.

The Press also would include many of the amenities common to creative developments, including volleyball courts, grills and outdoor seating.

Kearny won’t begin construction until it has lined up tenants who want at least 100,000 square feet.

The project is a joint venture of Kearny and Tribune Real Estate Holdings, a subsidiary of former Los Angeles Times owner Tribune Media that owns the plant and property.

Tribune Media in 2014 spun off the Times, Chicago Tribune and its other newspapers into Tribune Publishing, a separate company, but held onto the Costa Mesa plant and other real estate.

Last year, the Costa Mesa City Council approved up to 564,538 square feet of commercial retail space and up to 669,082 square feet of office space, or a combination of both, for the Sunflower Avenue property and an adjoining parcel at 3370 Harbor Blvd., which contains a youth baseball field now owned by Tribune Real Estate.

Creative offices, with their open floor plans and collaborative work spaces, have become common on L.A.’s Westside, Hollywood and downtown but are just making headway into Orange County, said Jay Nugent, a senior vice president in the Irvine office of real estate brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle.

Nugent estimates the county has about 1 million square feet of creative space now, and twice that amount in development — not counting Kearny’s project. “We’re seeing a lot of demand for it,” Nugent said.

Such space was initially sought by tech firms, ad agencies and other companies looking for a creative vibe, but in the past few years it’s gained popularity among law firms and other buttoned-down tenants more common in Orange County.

“There’s no doubt more traditional companies are exploring creative space,” Nugent said. “It’s no longer just for the young start-up company.”

Developers are rushing to build more creative office space because they believe it can command higher rents, said Jed Reagan, a senior analyst at Newport Beach real estate consulting firm Green Street Advisors.

“It is not uncommon to see these types of creative projects command a pretty healthy premium to a more traditional building just down the street,” Reagan said.

Dritley said he expects the Costa Mesa project would be sold from Tribune Media once completed.

Tribune Media spokesman Gary Weitman declined to comment on the project.

The Times’ Costa Mesa plant opened in 1968. It stopped printing newspapers in 2010, five years after The Times closed another printing plant in Chatsworth. The paper still operates printing facilities in Los Angeles and Irwindale.

Staff of The Times and Daily Pilot moved out of the property in October 2014. It includes dismantled printing presses, offices and a helipad.

Koren writes for the Los Angeles Times. Daily Pilot staff writer Bradley Zint contributed to this report.