The Star Tribune's real estate is on the market once again, Publisher Chris Harte told his staff in a memo Friday. The company hired a real estate broker to sell its five downtown Minneapolis blocks, but no deal is imminent or even guaranteed, he wrote.
A $45 million deal that would have sold off the newspaper's four parking lots and its less-used Freeman office building to the Minnesota Vikings collapsed last year when the team dropped its bid.
Harte said the company may now sell all its land near the Metrodome, including the headquarters at 425 Portland Av. S., which houses the advertising staff, newsroom and publisher's office, among others.
Tom Holtz and Rolf Kemen of CB Richard Ellis, a Los Angeles-based commercial real estate firm, will handle the sale, according to the company.
Harte's memo did not identify a potential buyer, nor did it mention the Vikings, but a spokesman said the team remains hopeful of opening a new, $954 million retractable roof stadium near the site in time for the 2012 season.
That would require not only acquiring the Star Tribune's land, but also legislative action next year to secure some form of public financing, said Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president for stadium development and public affairs. "We need to see some interest among state leaders," he said.
The Vikings have scooped up three surface parking lots over the past year near the Metrodome, which is one block east of the Star Tribune. The Vikings and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission have also signed an option to buy property west of the Metrodome that today houses an underground 450-car parking ramp and the Metrodome stop of the Hiawatha light-rail train. The option expires in June 2009, after the expected close of the legislative session.
The Vikings' agreement to play in the Metrodome expires in 2011.
Of course, someone other than Vikings owner Zygi Wilf could buy the property, a local real estate expert said.
"Our view of downtown is that it's one of the brighter spots in the office market," said Scott Pollock, vice president of investment services at United Properties, a Minneapolis commercial real estate firm. "The Metrodome used to be really removed from the action, and the action's kind of come its way now."
The Star Tribune's downtown property includes four surface parking lots east and west of Portland Avenue, the 62,000-square-foot Freeman building at 329 Portland Av. S., and the 250,000-square-foot headquarters at 425 Portland.
The newspaper was already consolidating all employees from the Freeman building into the headquarters.
News of the sale comes as the Star Tribune, like most daily newspapers in major metropolitan markets, battles a decline in revenue. In a recent memo to employees, Harte said total revenue at the Star Tribune was down about $75 million during the past two years.
Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329