The Guardian newspaper office could be moving in the near future.
The paper has been located at 165 Prince St. in Charlottetown since 1956 but SaltWire Network, the company that owns The Guardian and Journal Pioneer in Summerside, announced it will soon put a number of its buildings up for sale.
This means a number of newspapers in the chain will be moving their offices and newsrooms.
The Journal Pioneer isn’t affected by the sale because SaltWire Network doesn’t own the building the JP operates in. It’s leased space.
Ian Scott, the executive vice-president and chief operating officer for SaltWire Network, said the decision better aligns the company’s physical operations with changes already made in the business.
“From my perspective, the most important thing is to reassure both our staff as well as any readers that this is not about selling the business, this is about selling properties that are better managed by somebody who manages properties,’’ Scott said.
For sale signs will be going up on these buildings in the coming weeks. It means the 90 people who work at The Guardian will be working out of a new location at some point — although it’s too early to say where.
Dawn Alan, executive director of Downtown Charlottetown Inc., said change is good for a downtown with new people, new property owners, new builds as well as changes and improvements to existing buildings.
She suggests adding a couple of floors for apartments and leaving the bottom two floors as is, commercial.
“The change we don't want to see is the loss of any downtown employees and so it’s our sincere hope the 90 Guardian employees will remain either in their building or another within the downtown,’’ Alan said.
There is the potential The Guardian could stay put if the new property owner decides to lease the space back to SaltWire Network, as is the case with the Journal Pioneer and the Halifax Chronicle Herald.
“There is the potential for that to occur here as well with some of the properties,’’ Scott said.
Scott isn’t sure what SaltWire Network’s properties will fetch on the open market. They’ve got internal numbers, but he wasn’t willing to release them publicly.
“We’ll be putting (the revenue) into the business,’’ Scott said.
Joel Ives, broker/owner with Century 21 in Charlottetown, said it’s difficult to say what the building is worth, but he did say the commercial market in the downtown is pretty strong.
“There is always a market,’’ Ives said. “It depends on the (asking) price.’’
Ives added that sometimes it can take a while to sell property in the downtown, citing Myron’s and Sam the Record Man as examples.
Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown said the city is very concerned at the possible moving of the jobs out of the downtown or the city altogether.
“(The Guardian has been) a good corporate citizen. To see those jobs go elsewhere would be a disappointment,’’ Brown said, adding that he also worries about a commercial building sitting empty in the downtown and the loss of the tax base.
Scott wanted to guard against the perception that this is a sign of downsizing as newspapers struggle to maintain readership in this digital world.
“This has really nothing to do with industry trends or the industry as a whole,’’ Scott said. “It’s really about what can we do best? What’s our differential advantage? In our case, it’s putting our capital to work in producing great stories and providing audiences to advertisers.’’
No jobs will be lost as a result of the property sales.
“This has no impact on jobs at all. This has got nothing to do with the business, per se, it’s about finding the best providers of leased space. We’re simply not in that business. We just inherited a bunch of buildings when we inherited the properties.’’
The buildings the following SaltWire Network newspapers are located in will soon be up for sale:
The Casket, Antigonish, N.S.; Cape Breton Post, Sydney, N.S.; The Truro News, Truro, N.S.; The Vanguard, Yarmouth, N.S.; The Guardian, Charlottetown, P.E.I.; The Telegram, St. John’s, N.L.; The Western Star, Corner Brook, N.L.; The Shelburne Free Press, Shelburne, N.S.; The New Glasgow News, New Glasgow, N.S.; The Northern Pen, St. Anthony, N.L.