Housing Complex

What the Post Sale Means for Development

postThere are two answers to this question that immediately come to mind: 1. Not much. 2. We don't know yet. For these reasons, I've been reluctant to weigh in on the news of Jeff Bezos' purchase of the Washington Post. But it's big enough news for the city—and, yes, potentially for its real estate—that I feel compelled to share a few thoughts. So here goes.

The sale might not have a drastic effect on the Post's plan to move from its 15th Street NW headquarters, but it'll probably have some sort of effect, mostly because the newspaper and its building are no longer owned by the same company. The paper, owned by Bezos, might have numbered days at the building, owned by the soon-to-be-renamed Washington Post Co. The terms of the sale allow the paper to lease its current space for two years, plus two six-month extensions. The paper was looking for a new home starting sometime between 2015 and 2017, so that doesn't represent much of a change—but it could motivate the paper to stick to its schedule.

And the mechanics of the move could change, too. Whereas there was previously talk of a swap with a developer for a new office, that option is no longer really on the table, since the paper has nothing to swap. (Of course, the Washington Post Co. will need a home, too.) Likewise, it was possible that a developer would assist the paper in its move as part of a property sale—again, that now appears unlikely.

Finally, the destination could change. Prior to the news of the paper's sale today, Jonathan O'Connell reported on six potential new homes for the Post. All six are in the District. An owner on the other side of the country might feel less compelled to keep the paper in D.C. proper—though the Post already experimented with a digital operation in Virginia. Or Bezos might be attracted to edgier, techier sites—say, the St. Elizabeths East Campus, where Microsoft is considering opening an "innovation center." There are plenty of reasons to think Bezos will seek to integrate the paper into his broader web/tech operation, in which case proximity to other tech firms may be more attractive than the traditionally valued proximity to the White House and Capitol.

The other issue, of course, is where the paper's coverage will go. The Post's newish Executive Editor Marty Baron has indicated that he wants to focus more on local coverage. Bezos, from his perch in the other Washington, might feel no such desire. (Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans today lamented that he had to "see another local institution pass out of local hands.") If Bezos' goal is to maximize Web clicks, generate revenue, and compete with the likes of the New York Times for national readers, he has little incentive to invest in coverage of JBG and Doug Jemal. That's bad news for D.C. readers who have increasingly few sources of good local reporting—but it could be good news for developers who don't want such an intense spotlight shined on their every transaction.

Again, the real ramifications of the Post sale will be felt mainly in the city's journalism, and to a lesser extent in its business and tech worlds. But there will be effects on its real estate as well, however indirect. We'll soon have a better sense of what those will be.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • name

    This is pretty idiotic thinking.

    Why would a man who's the 14 wealthiest person in the world bust his butt trying to "maximize revenue" for chump change with a bunch of tired slackers (slacker with Zero content knowledge)?

    He's not in it for the money you failed marxist buffoons. He's in it to be transformative; something no one at the Post is interested in today. Current employees are either disgruntled because they over paid for the their college educations vs. what they're actually worth, or just trying to eke out a few more years under social security kicks in churning out rewrites of 30 year old articles and political appeals.

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  • Rik

    If Bezos had gotten the real estate, it might have been a good deal. Without the real estate, all Bezos got was the stinking corpse of a "newspaper" known as the WaPo.

  • MStreetDenizen

    make it half street, please!

  • Tom M.

    If we order the WaPo over Amazon, we get free delivery then right?

  • pennies4thoughts

    The Amazon + WaPo connection provides a couple more avenues for revenue generation. Amazon ads linked to reader content interest in WaPo. Cookies on WaPo readers hard drive sending interests back to Amazon to give registered Amazon users recommendations. Amazon would not have to pay a third party for this valuable information.

  • http://austinhomemapsearch.com/ Deborah C. Madrid

    Clearly I probably missed something on this. Daily papers are passing on; somebody went along and offered them a great deal of cash after this one went tummy up. The Grahams had a great run; why it is surprising they might acknowledge this offer now?

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