Los Angeles Herald Examiner building to be redeveloped – some 25 years after paper closed
Historic newspaper building, designed by Julia Morgan, the designer of Hearst Castle, will finally get a much deserved make-over, the Hearst Corporation announced
Here is a real estate story that is very personal to me. Hearst announced yesterday that it had entered into an agreement with the developer, The Georgetown Company, to redevelop its building in Los Angeles, the former home of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.
The building on 11th and Broadway was designed by Julia Morgan, who also designed Hearst Castle. The building was completed in 1914. Originally those archways were windows, but sadly they were filled in during the nine year strike that crippled the paper.
Needing a paper to support his bid for president, William Randolph Hearst founded the Los Angeles Examiner in 1903. The paper was a companion to his San Francisco Examiner, which Hearst’s father, George, acquired in 1880 legend has it, as payment for a poker debt. The paper became the Herald Examiner when the Examiner was merged with another Hearst paper in LA, the Herald-Express in 1962. It was this merger, along with the merger of its rivals, the Times and Mirror, that ended up dooming the paper. Before this both Hearst and Otis Chandler, the publisher of the Times and Mirror, each had a morning and afternoon paper. The Examiner, when founded, was considered pro-union compared to Chandler’s newspapers.
But the mergers meant that one paper would be an afternoon paper and the other a morning paper. The Los Angeles Times ended up being the morning paper, and the Herald Examiner ended up being the afternoon paper. The Herald Examiner, now published by the next generations of Hearsts, move to the right and became decidedly anti-union. In 1967, things came to a head when employees went out on strike which lasted nine years.
I started working at the Herald Examiner long after that strike was settled, but by then the paper was a shadow of itself. Only one of the many department stores would run ads in the paper, The Broadway, and those were only a page or two a week. Once, when desperately courting another department store, I think it was Robinson’s, that store finally agreed to run one test ad, to the delight of the ad staff. But when the ad copy finally came it, it turned out to be a quarter page ad for an athletic brassiere, so afraid was the department store of risking the anger of the dominate LA Times.
Paid circulation fell sharply through the sixties and seventies, and by the time Ronald Reagan became president the paper was desperate to keep its circulation above 200,000. Orange County had grown up and soon the Register passed the Herald Examiner in circulation putting the paper in third place in the LA market. Hearst tried different tactics during the eighties including the purchase of a group of LA county papers. It also brought in new management, including one group that tested out a tabloid paper – better to be read on the subways ownership was sure existed in town. Union members caught wind of the printing of a test run and grabbed copies, placed them into trucks and dumped them in front of the building as a way of letting staff know of the company’s plans.
The most ambitious experiment, however, was the idea of producing a full-color newspaper. Test runs were made of the Sunday paper, and I still possess the first edition. It was beautiful. But ownership would have had to invest in new presses and that was never going to happen.
The Herald Examiner finally went out of business in 1989, with its last issue published on November 2. By then I was working at a daily newspaper in Northern California, but I had many friends who managed to stick out until the end. No one who ever worked there will forget the experience – good and bad.
The building at 1111 S. Broadway has remained almost as it existed on the day the paper closed (the lobby is seen at right). Crews would occasionally come in to shoot films or tv shows, and there would sometimes would be talk of selling the building or renovating it.
Amazingly, one employee of the Herald Examiner stayed at work, even after the paper was closed. Charles Lutz was part of a three man crew designated to close out the building in 1989. But after the work was over he stayed on payroll to maintain things, only retiring at the end of 2012. “It goes without saying Chuck has been a dedicated L.A. Herald-Examiner and Hearst Corporation employee,” Marty Cepkauskas, the director of real estate for Hearst said in a profile of Lutz.
Despite the growth of the area surrounding the building, there is not been anything to report until now.
Here is Hearst’s announcement:
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – August 31, 2015 – The Georgetown Company, a leading developer and owner of commercial, retail and mixed-use properties nationwide, announces a joint development project with Hearst Corporation to redevelop the landmark Herald Examiner Building into a dynamic property that will include a mix of creative office space, retail and restaurants. The unique building was built in 1914 and designed by Julia Morgan, the renowned architect who designed Hearst Castle.
The Herald Examiner Building adjoins two rapidly growing and resurgent neighborhoods, South Park and the Broadway Corridor, that are quickly becoming known as destinations for creative industries as well as upscale shopping and restaurants. The building’s noteworthy two-story lobby will be restored to its original grandeur, along with a complete renovation and restoration of the building.
“The opportunity to participate in the downtown Los Angeles revitalization, in an area with rapidly increasing demand, is one we could not pass up,” said Michael Fischer, Vice President of Georgetown. “We’re excited to have the chance to restore and spotlight this historic building, and to do so in partnership with Hearst Corporation is a great privilege.”
“We look forward to collaborating with the experienced team at The Georgetown Company to restore and preserve the history of this beautiful building while bringing the Herald Examiner Building back to life for downtown LA,” said Stephen Hearst, Vice President and General Manager of Hearst Corporation’s Western Properties.
“The timely leasing opportunity will offer fully modernized interiors rebuilt to new creative standards,” said Muhlstein. “High ceilings, retail amenities, and 100-year old authentic finishes will adorn the project while a strong development team will ensure quality throughout.”
The South Broadway surrounding area has witnessed increasing demand for commercial space as high-end hotels, creative office tenants and retail spaces have opened over the past 24 months. The budding neighborhood is poised to become the epicenter of the downtown Los Angeles resurgence with additional upscale hotels, thousands of residential units, stores and restaurants planned to open within the next three years.
The Herald Examiner Building project is The Georgetown Company’s latest development in the Los Angeles area. The company is currently completing a $280 million multi-phase redevelopment of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Culver City Studio Lot that is creating new office and production facilities, added amenities and improved public spaces. Previously in a joint venture with Paramount Pictures, Georgetown developed a theater and office buildings at the Paramount Pictures Studios on Melrose Avenue.