Sacramento’s long-standing alt-weekly newspaper, the Sacramento News & Review, has sold its office after more than a decade in North Sacramento. But the building won't remain vacant for long.
The LEED-certified building at 1124 Del Paso Boulevard was sold to the city of Sacramento for $3 million this week, and is now set to become the new site of the Hagginwood Library.
The Sacramento News & Review had occupied this building since its move from its Midtown offices in 2009. During the pandemic, the paper stopped printing due to a drop in advertising revenue. It resumed briefly in the fall, but stopped again at the end of last year.
Owner Jeff Von Kaenel has said he hopes selling the building will keep the publication viable with a digital-focused model.
“The ability for us to do more online and get more reporting is made a lot easier [by] not maintaining the cost of a 19,000 square foot building,” Von Kaenel said. “Selling the building actually makes the newsroom feel more viable.”
The paper's staff has been working remotely since last March, and Von Kaenel said he wasn’t concerned that the lack of a building would impact the reporting that they do in the community.
“We’ve been working remotely successfully, and in fact certain people have relocated in a way that they don’t want to come into the office everyday, so we’re adjusting to that new reality, and this gives them more flexibility,” he said.
For former staffers, the selling of the building is bittersweet. Rosemarie Messina worked in advertising sales with the News & Review for 25 years and was with the paper when it moved from their offices in Midtown in 2009.
“That building was so instrumental for us in moving out of Midtown back when we did and finding that wonderful home on Del Paso Boulevard,” Messina said. “We used to call it our green building on a dime because we did really cool things there that were state of the art at the time. We had blue jean insulation, we had the recycled glass countertops. It was a beautiful building. Everyone felt at home there.”
Smaller media outlets across the country have suffered as a result of the pandemic. A recent report from the Pew Research Center shows that job losses from newspapers accelerated during the pandemic, with 24% of large newspapers experiencing layoffs in 2019, and 33% in 2020.
For alt-weeklies the statistics were even more dire.
“We did see a number of alt-weeklies being sold to major legacy news organizations if they didn’t close altogether,” said Elisa Shearer, a researcher at the Pew Research Center.
She added that local news has become less local since the 2008 recession. She said the pandemic further worsened this impact, but she also added that the Research Center was seeing a greater shift towards digital media.
Von Kaenel has said that SN&R will continue to publish online and that he doesn’t believe not having a building or news boxes will impact their ability to cover the community accurately. The paper will be seeking a smaller space eventually, though he didn’t specify when.
For the city of Sacramento, the ability to expand the Hagginwood Library was an exciting prospect.
“It is large enough for us to truly create a community hub for North Sacramento, a traditionally underserved area,” said Sacramento Public Library Director Rivkah Sass. “We have two very small facilities and the current library is very inadequate, it’s only 4,000 square feet. During COVID we haven’t been able to let anyone in.”
She said she’s looking forward to taking over a larger building which will allow them to create a maker’s space, a community room, hold workforce development programs and partner with community members more often.
“It’s really perfect in so many ways,” she said.
Von Kaenel says he couldn’t think of a better use for the paper’s old building.
“To have the legacy of this building that we put so much love into become a library just means so much to us. And the thought that young kids will be coming here, and have our building be a community library and be a great meeting place, it’s a great legacy for the building,” he said.
City Council approved the sale of the building July 27. The library will officially take over the building and begin renovations in September.
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