Housing Complex

What to Expect if the Post Moves

So the Washington Post is considering a move from its 63-year-old headquarters. The Post has enjoyed its most glorious highs and some recent lows in its home at 1150 15th St. NW. A move now would raise two questions: Where's the Post headed, and what will become of its storied downtown building?

This morning's news already has local Post reporters speculating that the paper could be Virginia-bound. Mike DeBonis tweeted, "Will the Post stay in D.C.? Not a forgone conclusion. Remember http://wpost.com was originally based in right-to-work Virginia." Tim Craig replied, "I agree. Wouldnt be surprised if we ended up in Virginia...Wonder if Gray will try to keep us, or even wants us lol. lol."

The paper's split-newsroom experiment, which saw the print operations carried out on 15th Street while the Web team worked across the river in Arlington, came to an end in 2009. By most accounts, it was a failure that treated Web reporting as separate and secondary and made coordination difficult. But could the reintegrated paper end up back across the river? New Executive Editor Marty Baron has indicated that he wants to double down on Metro coverage. The question is how much of that coverage will be of the District proper. A move to Virginia would be a symbolic admission that the Post's strength is in the suburbs.

And what would become of the iconic 15th Street building? Publisher Katharine Weymouth declined to place a value on the property (and adjacent Post-owned addresses on L Street); the city assessed them at close to $80 million. (The company built its headquarters back in 1950 for just $6 million.) According to the Post, Michael Darby of Monument Realty has been trying gather investors to buy a neighboring property on Post-owned land with the possible goal of consolidating the block, and that he'd help the Post relocate if his group bought its building.

But owning adjacent properties is most valuable if you plan to tear them down and put something new in their place. That could well be the fate of the Post building. Having worked there, I can say that it's functional as a newsroom, where proximity to TV screens and editors is more important than window access. But its layout would be difficult for a more traditional office, given that most desks in the newsrooms are a long way from the nearest window. It's also not the most attractive building.

A good analoguehere is the NPR headquarters at Mount Vernon Square. The broadcaster is in the process of moving out of its wedge-shaped building to a new home in NoMa. And what's the new owner of its old property, Boston Properties Inc., planning to do with it? Tear it down in April. The same fate could await the monolithic Post headquarters—should the move go through.

  • TakomaNick

    I would like to see them stay in the district. If they want to lower costs then maybe Ft Totten, Takoma, Anacostia (Good Hope and MLK). There are plenty of options. Why not gentrify a neighborhood? It would be weird for them to be in the suburbs.

  • name

    Socialism's a bitch, eh Wapo?

    It's funny that the institution that made a business (a capitalist business) out of destroying established human institutions in favor of the latest crank idea to come out of an Ivy League sociology department or destroying trying-to-do-the-right-thing careers in favor of soundbite idiots can't hack it in the city it helped create.

    GFYS WaPo. I hope you end up in Rockville.

  • D

    Would be a real shame if they moved to VA. A loss for DC, but if it happened a much greater loss for WaPo in the long term.

  • the time

    myopic little twits at the post tweeting while rome burns.

    so now-obsessed are they, they refuse to look to the future about what a disastrous decision would mean for their namesake. who cares WHAT Gray thinks? that is so not the point, but they don't get it.

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  • http://metroderp.tumblr.com MetroDerp

    Oh, great, if they leave the District their sycophantic WMATA mouthpiece "Dr. Gridlock" will pay even *less* attention to the dire state of transit and all other non-car transportation in the region.

    Considering the lip service they pay to actual DC affairs, maybe it's fitting.

  • http://www.pedestrians.org John Z Wetmore

    A sizeable part of information exchange in society happens because of serendipitous meetings on the sidewalk. The Post will be cutting themselves off from that source of information if they abandon the walkable city for a car-centric suburb. But the bean counters will never realize what they are giving up in order to make a one-time capital gains windfall on their real estate.

  • Alf

    The Post is doing what makes sense. Their building is old and outmoded by today's standards. A lot of the cabling has been grafted on. The building was also designed to house the printing presses and that use ended some time ago. The Post management and board may feel that they can find a more efficient, modern headquarters in a dela that makes a lot of financial sense for the paper. As for staying in Washington, I bet they do, but not after having a serious bake-off among the three jurisdictions. At the end of the day, DC will have to offer tax and other incentives for them to stay. Unfortunately, that is the reality, but it is probably a better investment to keep a flagship brand with, relatively speaking, a lot of jobs, than take a speculative flyer on a dot.com with only speculative profitability (as DC has done in other cases). Also consider that the Post probably wants easy access to the Hill, the White House and other sources, so going even to Arlington would not be optimal for them.

  • dcjpad

    If the Post's "home at 1150 15th Street NW" (its "iconic 15th Street building") is its headquarters, that building is not 63 years old. Previous headquarters at 1515 L opened in 1950 and did cost $6 million. But the headquarters at 1150 15th opened in 1973 and cost $25 million: http://www.washpostco.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=62487&p=irol-history1950. One could argue that connectivity between the buildings makes them a single headquarters, but that's not really what you're saying when you're mistating the original cost to the Post.

  • dcjpad

    mistating, a.k.a. misstating.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/ Aaron Wiener

    @dcjpad Post spokeswoman confirms Post move to current building as taking place in 1950.

  • dcjpad

    Either there's a misunderstanding on her part or yours. The company's own timeline (linked earlier) says, under 1973, "In October, The Post dedicated its new $25 million building at 1150 15th Street, N.W." It's known that the Post commissioned I.M. Pei in the '60s to design a new headquarters building for 1150 15th, where a church then stood, and -- not finding his design usable -- ended up with the generic "monolithic" structure that opened in the '70s and has become "iconic." Maybe the Post considers 1150 15th and 1515 L (the 1950 building) one and same complex, but 1150 15th did not exist in 1950 and did not cost $6 million to build.

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