AJC moving from downtown to Perimeter Mall area

This photo from 1973 shows the papers’ new Marietta Street home in the background and the demolition of 10 Forsyth in the foreground. In the lower left of the photo, cars are still parked in front of the spot where Union Station once stood, even though that building had already been demolished by then. (Bill Mahan/AJC file)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will relocate its headquarters next year from its longtime home downtown to smaller, leased offices near Perimeter Mall, parent company Cox Enterprises announced Monday.

The move is another cost-cutting measure by the AJC, which has 850 employees at 72 Marietta St. The company occupies less than 30 percent of the downtown location after consolidating printing operations last year in Gwinnett County.

“The decision was made to benefit our customers, employees and business,” AJC Publisher Michael Joseph said.

“We hold corporations and government officials accountable for fiscal responsibility, and we must do the same for ourselves. This move will reduce controllable costs and help the company remain viable and focused on our core mission of journalism, while continuing to serve the community and provide advertising solutions.”

The AJC will maintain its Capitol bureau and also plans to have an intown bureau, although its location and staffing levels haven’t been determined, Joseph said. News and production will also be located at a large AJC facility in Gwinnett County. That facility recently underwent a $30 million enhancement of presses and distribution systems.

Like most other large U.S. newspapers, the AJC has grappled with revenue declines over the past two years, and the headquarters change is the latest in a series of moves to cut costs and reshape the business. Since 2007 the company has reduced its distribution area, cut overall staffing and reorganized both newsgathering and advertising sales operations.

Joseph said this latest decision won’t affect content. “Our readers and advertisers won’t see a difference with our product at all,” he said

Cox Enterprises, which owns the AJC and has its headquarters near the new Dunwoody location, said it has no plans to sell the 72 Marietta Street building. But the company did not provide details about the building’s future.

The AJC or one of its predecessors, the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution, have been in the current offices since 1972 and downtown since 1868. The site includes 5.8 acres of land and 435,000 square feet inside the buildings on the property.

The new AJC headquarters will be at 223 Perimeter Center Parkway, across the street from Perimeter Mall. A former regional office for Macy’s, it will provide 129,806 square feet of office and storage space. The move will begin in the first quarter of 2010 and will be completed over several months, the company said.

While the AJC’s move is not good for downtown Atlanta, it is less significant than it would have been a few years ago, experts said.

At the end of second quarter 2009, the overall office vacancy rate in downtown Atlanta was 22.3 percent, according to a report by commercial real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle. That compares to 26.2 at the end of 2006, after a couple of large law firms moved from downtown to Midtown, said Lanie Rea, research manager at Jones Lang LaSalle in Atlanta.

“I hesitate to say that the AJC moving out of downtown will have no impact, because obviously downtown does not want to lose a firm that large,” she said Monday. “But it is less significant of a hit for the submarket because [downtown] is in a healthier position that it was 3-to-5 years ago. It’s not going to ding the submarket quite as much.”

The AJC’s current site is an attractive location and will find another use, said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, a nonprofit group designed to strengthen the downtown economy.

The loss of the AJC headquarters, though, is disappointing, Robinson said. “It’s 140 years of being an integral part of the city when Atlanta was small and when Atlanta has gotten a lot bigger,” Robinson said. “Changing that location, no matter what you do, is going to have an impact.”

Staff Writer Gertha Coffee contributed to this report.


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