While the newspaper industry continues to struggle, the Austin American Statesman has a very valuable asset: the land under it’s offices and printing facility. The Statesman building sits on one of the most valuable downtown real estate parcels: 18.9 acres of lakefront land on South Congress Avenue across from downtown. The site also boasts a great view of the bats that live under the Congress Avenue bridge.
Now the Statesman’s parent company is considering multiple unsolicited offers for the site which experts believe could be worth $50 – $80 million. For the Statesman, it is probably not necessary or cost effective to print newspapers on one of the most expensive pieces of land in the City. They currently must pay roughly $1 million in property taxes each year based on the site’s current $39.8 million valuation.
The Statesman building was constructed in 1980. It houses the bulk of the newspaper’s 500+ employees as well as the printing plant and packaging facilities. The 330,000 square foot building s surrounded by 500+ parking spaces for employees and visitors. Without any public parking or ground-floor retail, the current Statesman site in one of the reasons that the prime south congress shopping and dining areas are so disconnected from downtown.
The Statesman Site (Source: Statesman)
The Statesman has said that they would relocate the paper within Austin if the downtown land was sold to developers. Development of the site, however would have challenges as the parcel would face numerous height and setback restrictions. In addition, South Austin neighborhoods have been strong opponents of high-rise development on the south shore of the lake. But the site does offer great benefits for dense development and the opportunity to serve as a pedestrian gateway connecting South Austin to the heart of downtown.