Chronicle Rents Space to Eventual Replacements

Tech companies, real estate developers spec-out their post-newspaper landscapes.

By Matt Baume
|  Monday, Apr 11, 2011  |  Updated 1:11 PM PDT
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Chronicle Rents Space to Eventual Replacements

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The musty old headquarters of the ever-dwindling San Francisco Chronicle are getting a fresh infusion of vitality -- but that new lease on life may not extend to the paper itself.

The newspaper has occupied the building at the corner of Fifth and Mission for nearly 90 years, but in recent years they've needed less and less of the building. That's because dwindling interest in physical newsprint and a lack of modern features have led to repeated cutbacks in staff and content.

These days, Chronicle staffers are confined to one floor of the old building. And all around them there are glimpses into the future, according to the Bay Citizen.

Leasing office space on the ground floor are a handful of new tech-industry startups, some of which may play a role in shaping the media that one day replaces the Chronicle. It's a bit like a Vaudeville theater renting out its space to a movie house, or a movie theater renting out its space to a TV studio, or a TV studio renting out space to a Blockbuster, or a Blockbuster renting out space to Netflix, or Netflix renting out space to a company that offers live theatrical song-and-dance entertainment.

And outside of the walls, developers are eyeing the Chron's abandoned parking lots and printing facilities for new skyscrapers.

With the glacial pace of San Francisco construction projects, it'll be many years before anything new pops up on the property. Developers will have to overcome nostalgia for the paper's heyday if they're to tamper with the iconic blank walls and imposing clocktower of the existing structure.

According to Chronicle publisher Frank Vega, the company will remain in the building for the "foreseeable future." But the paper's ability to "foresee" anything is a matter of some debate.

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