After 58 years wedged between the Southeast Expressway and Morrissey Boulevard, The Boston Globe in 2017 will return to the heart of downtown Boston, where the newspaper was founded and operated for decades.
Boston Globe Media Partners chief executive Mike Sheehan said Thursday that the company signed a letter of intent to move its editorial and business operations to the second and third floors of the Exchange Place complex at 53 State St. on Jan. 1, 2017.
The new headquarters is less than a quarter-mile from the Globe’s historic home on “Newspaper Row,” at 238-240 Washington St., where the paper operated from its founding in 1872 until moving to Dorchester in 1958. It is also near Boston’s political and business centers, a short walk from City Hall, the State House, and numerous corporate offices.
Sheehan said the move downtown was a vote of confidence in the Globe’s future as a business and, equally, a symbolic gesture meant to show the journalistic institution will not retreat from its position near the center of civic life in Boston.
“We believe, first and foremost, that there is a bright, shining future for high-quality journalism in the region,” Sheehan said in an interview. “We’re moving people to where they will be closer to the stories and where they can access the stories on foot. That sends an important message.”
Newspaper Row, in a time before radio and television, was a gathering place for Bostonians. They crowded underneath chalkboards and around primitive news-tickers, hoping to get updates on events like the World Series, heavyweight bouts, and Charles A. Lindbergh’s flight from New York to Paris. In 1887, the Globe even used carrier pigeons and telegraphs to relay updates from reporters observing an offshore regatta.
In 1958, eyeing a burgeoning suburban readership, the Globe moved to a sprawling complex on Morrissey Boulevard that offered more room for its delivery operations and easy access to nearby highways. It was the last newspaper to abandon Newspaper Row. The move mirrored a broader shift in the United States at the time to a suburban, car-dependent society — just as the Globe’s impending move downtown mirrors today’s urban renaissance.
The Exchange Place complex is a union of the former Boston Stock Exchange building, built in the 1890s, and a 510-foot-tall glass skyscraper built in 1985.
Sheehan declined to detail the terms of the Globe’s lease with building-owner UBS Financial Services Inc. because the particulars are still being negotiated. However, he said the move should save the company a significant amount of money compared with the high cost of operating and maintaining the aging Dorchester building.
Sheehan said that while the Globe had considered numerous office spaces in other neighborhoods, it had never entertained a move outside of Boston. He called Exchange Place “our home for the long haul.”
The Globe has hired Gensler, an international design firm, to fit out its space at 53 State St., which will also house Boston.com and other publications under the Boston Globe Media Partners umbrella.
The Globe had previously announced that its printing and delivery operations would move to a new facility in Taunton, bought in May for $20.3 million. Executives have said they expect the first of four press lines there to become operational by mid-March 2016. The other lines will be completed by the end of 2016. Once the Taunton press is fully operational, printing of the Globe, the Boston Herald, The New York Times, and USA Today will move to the 328,000-square-foot facility.
The move downtown will cap an eventful decade for the Globe. The paper’s staff has endured buyouts and, more recently, layoffs, as at many US newspapers in the Internet era. In 2009, it even faced down the threat of closure by then-owner The New York Times Co.
But the Globe has also bolstered its digital presence, launching BostonGlobe.com in 2011. And it has won acclaim for its journalism, including a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
Red Sox principal owner John Henry bought the Globe in 2013, promising to preserve the integrity of its journalism.
Henry has said he intends to sell the paper’s 16.5-acre Morrissey Boulevard property. An earlier deal for the site with a Concord development firm fell through in February.