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Newspapers to build 6-story press complex

Downtown project priced at $35 million

This article was originally published Feb. 3, 2005:

Fort Wayne Newspapers plans a $35 million investment in downtown -- the centerpiece of which will be a more than 46,000-square-foot building to house a new offset printing press that will produce newspapers faster with more and better color.

The newspaper company debated whether it should make the investment near its existing site, 600 W. Main St. in downtown, or construct a press building at another site in the area.

"We believe in downtown Fort Wayne and the future of downtown. We'd like to be here for it," said Mary Jacobus, president of Fort Wayne Newspapers, the business agent for The Journal Gazette and The News-Sentinel.

The investment and expansion were announced during a news conference Wednesday morning.

"I'm proud of the magnitude of our commitment to downtown Fort Wayne. This is a very large investment and will be an impressive new `state of the art' facility," Julie Inskeep, publisher of The Journal Gazette, said in a statement. "And as soon as these new presses roll, I know readers and advertisers will see a marked improvement in our product."

To make room for the expansion, Fort Wayne Newspapers has purchased the three-story Moellering Supply Building along Main Street, west of Van Buren Street, from St. Joseph Hospital. That building will be demolished and the press building constructed on the rarely used Fort Wayne Newspapers parking lot at Main and Van Buren streets. A bridge will be constructed over Van Buren Street connecting the new structure to the existing Fort Wayne Newspapers building, which is about 155,025 square feet. A single-gripper conveyor will allow the company to move newspapers from the press building to its mail room for distribution.

The new building, expected to be at least six stories tall, will include a newsprint warehouse, printing plate room and locker and break rooms, Phil Haggerty, Fort Wayne Newspapers' vice president of operations, said during an interview.

Groundbreaking for the expansion could begin in December or January with construction completed by mid-2007.

City officials said they believe the project will be the largest building constructed downtown since the eight-story Wells Fargo Indiana Center was built at Wayne and Calhoun streets in the mid-1990s, and the $35 million price tag might be the largest amount spent at once by a private company since One Summit Square was built 25 years ago. For comparison, the massive expansion of Grand Wayne Center -- which is publicly financed -- will cost about $39 million.

Fort Wayne Newspapers is expected to select a vendor for the press within four to six weeks. The new press will dramatically increase color capabilities, which is expected to benefit newspaper advertisers.

The new press will replace a 12-unit printing press that is considered outdated.

The company's existing press units allow the newspapers to have either four or eight pages of full color, but those pages are not back-to-back.

"It's very exciting. We will be able to print up to 48 pages back to back with full color on every page," Jacobus said.

Readers of Fort Wayne Newspapers will notice sharper color reproduction and contrasts.

Newspaper companies replace presses, on average, about every 40 years, said Jacobus, also the publisher of The News-Sentinel. Four of the 12 Fort Wayne Newspapers press units are 21 years old; the eight others are 50 years old.

"We would be what you call overdue, and this will be a quantum leap into the future with this technology," Jacobus said.

"This investment," said Inskeep, The Journal Gazette's publisher, "also demonstrates our belief that newspapers will continue to be a vital part of the media landscape in the future...providing thorough, reliable and local content."

Fort Wayne Mayor Graham Richard, during Wednesday's news conference, called the announcement "an historic event" that continues the tradition of two newspapers working together.

"We will look forward to hundreds of millions of pages of print for generations to come," Richard said.

The Journal Gazette, which is privately held, has been locally owned since 1863. The News-Sentinel is owned by California-based Knight Ridder Co. Under the Fort Wayne Newspapers umbrella, the two newspapers share business operations through a Joint Operating Agreement that was renewed in 2003 and extends to 2050. The two newspapers, separately operated, remain competitive.

The new press will also allow the newspaper company to publish The Journal Gazette and The News-Sentinel on what is known in the industry as a 50-inch web. The 50-inch web width is now the industry standard.

When the new presses are up and running, The Journal Gazette and The News-Sentinel will be the same width as USA Today, one of the nation's largest-circulation newspapers, but 2 inches shorter than USA Today, Haggerty said. Currently, the newspapers have a 54 3/4 web width and a depth of about 23 9/16 inches. With the new press, the depth will be 21 inches.

The new press building project is not expected to have an effect on employment levels at Fort Wayne Newspapers, but at its peak could mean work for about 80 construction workers, Haggerty said.

Fort Wayne Newspapers has contracted with Massachusetts-based Dario Designs for building architecture and engineering.

Haggerty said Fort Wayne Newspapers must still seek a zoning variance from City Council based on the expected press building height. Current zoning allows for structures of about 35 feet. The new building is expected to be 60 to 65 feet.

* * *

By the numbers

$35 million

*The cost of the Fort Wayne Newspapers project, which includes the new printing press and support equipment

48

*The number of pages that can be printed back to back with full color

50

*The age of some of the existing press units that will be replaced. Most newspapers replace their presses about every 40 years.

53,000

*Approximate number of newspapers that can be printed per hour. Current presses can print about 33,000 newspapers per hour.

2007

*Target completion date

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