By Bill O’Boyle, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — The Times Leader building at 15 N. Main St. has been sold to King’s College.
Terms of the sale were not released, but the college said it plans to renovate the four-story structure to house expanded programs.
The Times Leader newsroom, advertising, and circulation departments will be transferred to the company’s building at East Market Street and Pennsylvania Boulevard. No date for the transfer has been set.
“We are extremely excited to be able to bring all of our employees under one roof and continue to be a leader in the downtown Wilkes-Barre business community,” said Mike Murray, Publisher/Times Leader Media Group. “Over the past several months, we’ve invested heavily in our presses to ensure a quality group of products are printed and delivered. In addition, through enhanced technology, moving to our Market Street facility allows us to take the next step in expanded news coverage by creating a mobile newsroom. This allows our team of professional journalists to be in the communities we serve faster and more often.
“Our commitment to remaining the dominant news voice in Wilkes-Barre remains at the top of our priority list along with providing the readers of Luzerne County only the most complete and up-to-date coverage. We take our mission seriously and are so proud to be a part of so many daily lives. This move strengthens our ability to meet the needs of the consumers of our market.
“We congratulate King’s College on the purchase of the building and their continued expansion in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
“The Times Leader is here to stay in Wilkes-Barre and we look forward to continuing our over 100 years of service to the community as the only local daily newspaper printed in Luzerne County.”
John R. Loyack, executive vice president for Business and Administrative Affairs at King’s, said, “The Times Leader building provides a strategic and cost effective location for King’s College to continue its expansion of Allied Health and Engineering programs within the existing footprint of the city. We are very excited to continue our expansion and to take another significant step in downtown Wilkes-Barre’s economic redevelopment and resurgence.”
Rev. John Ryan, C.S.C., Ph.D., President, King’s College, said, “As evidenced by the college’s successful King’s on the Square project, we expect that this endeavor and a similar one at the Spring Brook building on Franklin Street will continue to build the exciting synergy of blending college life with Wilkes-Barre’s downtown.”
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George welcomed the news, saying he was pleased to hear of the sale agreement.
“”It’s great that the Times Leader is dedicated to remaining in the city,” George said. “The paper is moving just two blocks away.”
George said the sale to King’s College bring the college and its students closer to the city’s downtown.
“There will be more people to work and attend school downtown and they will notice all that is available there,” George said. “We hope they consider living downtown in the new apartments and condos being built.”
George said the city collected more revenue from its 3 percent earned income tax in 2017 than ever before. He said more jobs could take that even higher in 2018.
“The city supports all the development being down in the downtown by King’s and Wilkes,” he said.
Wico van Genderen, Chief Executive Officer at the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, said the dynamics of the transaction are constructive.
“It provides King’s College with a great pathway to grow their Healthcare, Medical Technology and Health Management programs in an iconic building in the heart of the city,” van Genderen said. “It expands King’s College on the Square within the footprint of their North Wilkes-Barre campus.”
And, van Genderen said, at the same time it keeps the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre with all its associates downtown.
“It concentrates the paper in their building on Pennsylvania Avenue while making investments to update and modernize their building into our eastern gateway into the city,” van Genderen said. “The city benefits, the college is enhanced, the Times Leader continues to operate as a whole in the city and it continues our economic development momentum in the Valley.”
Larry Newman, Executive Director of the Diamond City Partnership, said the announcement provides multiple benefits to downtown Wilkes-Barre.
“We’re obtaining the reuse of a landmark building and facilitating the growth of King’s College’s programs and campus, while retaining the Times Leader’s newsroom, sales, and press operations in our center city,” Newman said.
Newman said King’s investment at 15 N. Main St. continues the downtown’s emergence as the region’s college neighborhood — a trend, Newman says, that has driven everything from more start-up companies locating their offices in downtown, to new restaurants, to the wave of downtown residential conversions that have helped to grow the city’s earned income tax revenue.
“King’s College and Wilkes University have become downtown’s economic engines, anchoring North and South Main streets in the same way that department stores traditionally bracketed each end of a main street or a suburban mall,” Newman said. “Just as those anchor stores attracted other retailers, the colleges’ program and enrollment growth attracts new private investment to downtown Wilkes-Barre.”
Newman added that it’s also worth noting that this announcement brings a national real estate trend to Wilkes-Barre — the re-purposing of the monumental downtown newspaper plants of the early 20th century.
“During the past decade, the landmark buildings of newspapers like the New York Daily News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and peers in dozens of smaller American cities have all been traded in by the papers that built them and put to new use,” Newman said. “That trend is due to two compelling factors — first, newspapers’ facilities needs have changed dramatically in recent years; and second, the demand for robust, adaptable, architecturally interesting buildings in healthy downtown locations presents a compelling opportunity for a variety of new owners.
“In this case, we got an added win because the Times Leader’s relocated operations are remaining right here in downtown Wilkes-Barre.”