PROVIDENCE — When the Providence Journal joined the “color revolution” and stopped printing exclusively in black and white in the late 1980s, they retired the old printing presses in their 75 Fountain St. office and began using a new $60 million printing plant on Kinsley Avenue.
Gannett, the media giant that now owns the newspaper, has listed the Kinsley Avenue production facility for $8 million.
GateHouse Media, which is now owned by Gannett, had purchased the Journal, including its headquarters on Fountain and the printing facility on Kinsley for $46 million in the summer of 2014.
According to BellCornerstone, the New York-based real estate consultant in New York that listed the property, the plant needs about $179,000 in repairs.
BellCornerstone is also selling three other production facilities for Gannett-owned newspapers, including The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi for $4.6 million; The Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina for $6 million; and The Knoxville New Sentinel in Tennessee for $7.5 million. The Providence Journal’s facility is the smallest of the four at 158,400 square feet.
It’s unclear if the building has any prospective buyers, and Aidan Cleghorn, a partner at BellCornerstone, did not respond to requests from the Globe.
In a marketing brochure, Gannett said it is looking to sell the Providence Journal production facility and the three other production facilities in a leaseback agreement. But in fine print, it said, “Gannett requires a 10 year term with termination rights after 5 years.” A Gannett spokeswoman did not respond to questions from the Globe asking if this would be a packaged deal or how many papers are printed at the facility.
As of 2019, it was still the production facility for the Journal, the Cape Cod Times (also owned by Gannett), and the New London Day. It’s unclear where the Journal, or any other paper that is printed at the site, would be printed if Gannett terminated the contract after five years.
“We are not intending to shift production to another facility at this time — products currently produced at our Providence facility at 210 Kinsley Ave. will remain at that location,” said Carlene Cox, a spokeswoman for Gannett and USA Today Network.
Gannett has long struggled financially. The mega newspaper chain reported a net loss of $142.3 million for the first quarter in 2021. In New England, the company has closed six Massachusetts facilities this past summer alone: The Sun-Advocate in Stoneham; The Sandwich Broadsider in Sandwich,; The Bourne Courier in Bourne; the Melrose Free Press in Melrose; the Hudson Sun in Hudson, ; and the Marlborough Enterprise in Marlborough.
But Gannett has sold papers back to local owners in nearly two dozen instances. Some industry observers have long noted Gannett’s financial struggles, including their mounting debt, as a reason to close or sell some of their publications. Their listing of the Providence Journal — and other publications’ — printing facilities could be another way to help their balance sheets, experts say.
“Gannett has a lot of debt and this is a way to bring in some ready cash,” said Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor and nationally known media commentator who writes for WGBH and his blog Media Nation. “But I really have no idea what the larger strategy is... Only they know.”