After 98 years on the corner of Colfax Avenue and Lafayette Boulevard, the South Bend Tribune will soon move its offices less than a mile south – to a former Studebaker assembly facility – as it adapts to a changing media landscape.
The Tribune this week will temporarily relocate to Union Station, 506 W. South St, near Four Winds Field. A few months later, The Tribune is scheduled to move to its permanent home nearby: the former Studebaker General Assembly facility at 635 S. Lafayette Blvd., part of founder Kevin Smith's Renaissance District technology park.
Smith said The Tribune fits "perfectly" into his Renaissance District vision.
"They are like so much of our ecosystem," Smith said. The Tribune "needs to be completely redefined and going through a metamorphic process. I built this campus as tech-infused property because every business, no matter who you are or what you do, has to figure out how to absorb technology into their product set. "
In recent years, like newspapers across the country, The Tribune has adapted to readers' changing preferences for consumer news in the digital age. As more people browse the web – on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops – rather than on paper, many national advertisers have moved to follow them, demanding inheritance papers to maintain less site space and fewer employees.
While the newsroom and advertising departments have remained in South Bend, The Tribune in June 2017 stopped printing the paper on the site, and has since contracted to have it printed by a press near Grand Rapids, a scheme that will continue.
Another change came in January, when New York-based GateHouse Media bought The Tribune from locally-based Schurz Communications, whose ancestors founded the paper in 1872. Gatehouse chose not to buy the Tribune building and leased it from Schurz while searching for a smaller and more efficient space. GateHouse is now also teaming up with another major publisher, Gannett.
The three-story Tribune building contains about 125,000 square meters. In comparison, the new space for news, advertising and customer service will occupy around 15,000 square feet in the southeast corner of the former Studebaker Building 113. Pressure distribution will use an additional 14,000 square feet of storage space.
"In addition to serving us during the time we've been there, it's huge for us," said Andy Bruns, a GateHouse regional vice president who served as a temporary publisher of The Tribune. "The size of our company today, in terms of personnel, doesn't just fit the size of the building."
The Tribune considered several sites for about three years, including some that were within South Bend city limits, but not near the city center. The former Studebaker campus sits across a railway corridor from what the city's regulatory code defines as the "Central Business District."
"It was important that we try to stay as close to the center as we could," Bruns said. "I just think being in the heart of a community is important to a media company."
Fits its vision
Smith since 2012 has renovated and refurbished the former Studebaker car facility, where the four buildings comprise 1.2 million square meters, into a modern tech park, utilizing its fiber-optic data infrastructure at Union Station . Fiscal cost funding from the city and funding from the state's Regional Cities program contributed to the project's fuel.
The work included equipment for Building 84, the six-story structure just off Four Winds Field, with reflective glass, which gave the tall building a much needed facelift.
Tribune's new home, Building 113, sits just behind Building 84. Current tenants in 113 include the Purdue Polytechnic Institute; F Cubed, a biotech startup; EnFocus, a consulting firm; LEA Professional, an amplifier and sound technology company; and South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership, a non-commercial economic development.
Until last week, Smith owned Deluxe Sheet Metal, founded by his father Earl, and still owns 11 other businesses. He said he recently sold the record label, giving him more time to focus on the Renaissance district, in a part of the city that has been in the process of upgrading Four Winds Field and building neighboring apartments, run by South Bend Cub owner Andrew Berlin.
Smith expects The Tribune's permanent space to be ready by the end of March, bringing the ground floor of 113 and 150,000 square feet to about 80% occupancy.
"I've always invested in the core infrastructure that makes a city a city, and The Tribune is a core infrastructure that makes a city a city," Smith said. "It's the memories of the city, it's the heart of the city, the have seen people die and convey it, it has seen people marry, it has seen great events. It is the consciousness of the city. So what better place to invent yourself, except where the world is literally, to a technology hub I've created? "
Smith said he plans to approach GateHouse about the prospect of locating some of the campus data center operations, as a number of large companies have done.
" From this site, you can broadcast to any location in the world, you can connect to any digital asset you may need, "Smith said." There were three railways converging to form Union Station. It created national telecommunications napkins to grow and build upon. I happen to be one of the biggest hubs in the country and one of the biggest in the world where there is this convergence of connectivity. "
Bruns said he thinks that concept is exciting.
"It hasn't lost me that the future is the Internet, and we're moving into a building that is right on the Midwest backbone of the Internet," Bruns said. "People smarter than me will figure out what to do with it, but I think there's something there. "