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City purchases El Paso Times press building for $3.6 million

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Updated Oct. 12 at 1:57 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect the El Paso City Council vote.

The El Paso City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to purchase the building that housed the El Paso Times printing press for $3.6 million, a price $1 million lower than its appraised value for tax purposes.

“This is a strategic acquisition for the City, so we recommended that Council acquire the property that shares a wall, surface parking lot and other amenities with City Hall,” City Engineer Sam Rodriguez said in a press release following Tuesday’s council vote. “Acquiring the property just makes good business sense as it enables the City to bring more services to one physical location, as opposed to having them at different sites.”

The sale is expected to close within the next 90 days.

City staff provided few details of future plans for the building, including which departments could be housed there and how much it would cost to renovate and  transform the warehouse into a usable space for city services.

Gannett, the El Paso Times’ parent company, outsourced printing of the Times and five New Mexico papers to Paso Del Norte Publishing in Ciudad Juárez on Oct. 5.

The company began discussing the proposed sale with the city in June, according to city spokesperson Laura Cruz-Acosta.

The 73,400-square-foot building at 501 Mills Ave., which is adjacent to City Hall, sits on 2.25 acres, according to a presentation shown to council.

The city purchased its current City Hall building at 300 N. Campbell St., in 2012 from the El Paso Times’ then-owner, Digital First Media, for $9.4 million. As part of that sale, the city received first purchase rights of the building housing the press.

Purchasing the building will save the city $72,000 annually as it will no longer need to lease the breezeway connecting the two buildings, according to Tuesday’s presentation.

The El Paso Central Appraisal District has valued the Mills Avenue building at $4.6 million for tax purposes since at least 2017; however, CAD appraisals are often disputed. City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said a city-hired appraiser valued the building at $3.6 million, which he said is comparable to similarly-sized Downtown real estate.

The $3.6 million would come from selling city owned-buildings and facilities, including the site previously intended to be the Great Wolf Lodge in Northwest El Paso, Rodriguez told council. He did not say what the anticipated proceeds from that sale are.

The Mills Avenue building’s purchase price does not include the printing press machinery, which will be removed prior to the closing date. It’s unknown whether that equipment has been sold.

A Gannett spokesperson said Oct. 14 the company does not comment on transactions until they are final.

In February, Gannett announced it aimed to sell upwards of $100 million in “non-core assets” this year to reduce its debt. It borrowed $1 billion when it merged with GateHouse Media in 2019.

Cover photo: The El Paso Times ceased using its printing press on East Mills Avenue on Monday. The city of El Paso is purchasing the building, adjacent to City Hall, for $3.6 million. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Disclosure: El Paso Matters journalists Molly Smith and Elida S. Perez are former El Paso Times employees. CEO Robert Moore was editor of the Times when its then-offices were sold to the city of El Paso in 2012.

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Molly Smith and René Kladzyk

Molly Smith reports on K-12 education and other issues for El Paso Matters. René Kladzyk reports on immigration and other issues.

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