By: Jim Rosenberg
Some are better prepared to weather a downturn than others. With growing circulation, more commercial work than it’s been able to handle, and a contract to print The New York Times, the 100-year-old Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune is putting the final touches on a building addition that will house its fourth offset press in its third pressroom expansion in the last 30 years.
Sending employees’ cars to other lots it owns, the Tribune used a parking lot on the city block it occupies to put up a 184-foot-long addition to its building, creating 19,600 square feet of space for a 48-unit, two-folder Goss Universal 45 single-wide, one-around press and almost as much space below ground for 20 reelstands and paper storage. Linked by fiber-optic cable, the 50,000-square-foot production plant, built in 1986, and the original three-story downtown headquarters, built in 1972, were designed by Bernheim & Kahn Architects. Family-owned Tribune Publishing Co. retained the same firm — now an affiliate of SAS Architects & Planners, Northbrook, Ill. — two years ago for the plant extension when Publisher Henry J. Waters III was about to sign a contract to print the Times. The project’s general contractor, Professional Contractors & Engineers Inc., is the successor company to the builder of the production plant and the older headquarters, which still houses business offices, the newsroom, and electronic prepress.
The eight-unit Harris 845 press that moved across the street to the production plant and commercial-printing operation grew to 18 units and was joined by an eight-unit Goss Community. But even after the latter was replaced by a 12-unit, two-folder Dauphin Graphic Machines model, production had become a round-the-clock, six-day operation, according to the architects and newspaper management.
Still, without the Times contract, expansion would “certainly not [be] on this scale,” said Associate Publisher and Treasurer Vicki S. Russell, who valued the investment in plant and equipment at $16 million. With “hundreds of customers,” the commercial-printing business pulls in $7.5 million a year, excluding the Times contract. Russell would not disclose the number of Times copies likely to be printed in Columbia, but said they would reach readers in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas, as well as cities in Kansas and Nebraska.
Besides having to relocate water mains and sewers, challenges that delayed the project, according to SAS Senior Associate Larry Kahn, included setting a load-bearing foundation on limestone 12 feet below the existing plant’s footings — time-consuming work performed last winter that required the existing foundation to be stabilized during excavation. A two-foot-thick concrete slab went in last summer and supports the 429-ton press. SAS and Tribune Publishing expect to see electrical, ink, water, and air lines completed next month for an on-schedule April start-up.
The 19,154-circulation Tribune, not the Times, will be the first job run on the new press — configured as 12 full-color towers and suited to other commercial work.
Resulting open time on the Harris press will “enable us to be more competitive on million-plus runs,” said Russell.
Recently announced plans for a pair of Pennsylvania projects — one in Northampton County, the other in Northampton Township — also cope with capacity issues. For the first, Martin K. Till, president and publisher of The Express-Times, Easton, said his 48,223-circulation Advance Publications daily wants to erect a plant for a new, $3 million to $10 million press and an extension of the paper’s current Urbanite — which now prints the daily, 28 weeklies, a TV program booklet, and Sunday comics.
Till noted that the state offers tax breaks in several area development zones, according to the paper, which reported its publisher wished to stay within five miles if no downtown building is big enough for the presses. Depending on the press purchase, the project may take three years. Up to 100 staffers will move to the new plant. The old pressroom will be converted to offices.
About 60 miles down the Delaware River, in Tullytown, Calkins Media’s 66,489-circulation Bucks County Courier Times is looking west at 19 acres in Ivyland, where it hopes to break ground in October and begin printing two years later. Existing offices and the new plant will have a high-capacity landline connection. General Manager Thomas Spurgeon said the midcounty site has room for expansion and a nearby rail line. The paper is looking at double-wide offset to replace 40-year-old Goss letterpress, and output, Spurgeon told E&P, “will be computer to plate.” McClier/designAlliance, Boulder, Colo., is the architect.
The Courier Times quoted its publisher, Arthur E. Mayhew, as saying the design — with up to 80,000 square feet and a press hall high enough for the tallest towers — will allow production of a second newspaper “maybe 15 years down the road.”