Last edited 12:32 p.m., Nov. 3, 2021
The 11th floor of Hammons Tower soon will be the new site of the Springfield News-Leader's operations.
News-Leader staff had to vacate the paper’s home for 88 years, 651 Boonville Ave., to make way for a new owner, Springfield QOZ Self-Storage LLC, according to a warranty deed filed Aug. 20 in the Greene County recorder’s office.
The newspaper staff soon will move into its 4,500-square-foot office space overlooking the city in the office tower at 901 St. Louis St. A move-in date has not been set as the lease details have not yet been finalized and the lease has not yet been signed, according to Amos Bridges, editor-in-chief of the News-Leader.
The News-Leader moved its printing operation to Columbia in March 2020, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
Bridges said the building has been outsized for the staff since before the printing press was shut down.
“Even when we still had the press operating there, the building was significantly larger than we needed,” he said.
Bridges noted newspaper work has changed in terms of its staffing needs, both since he joined the News-Leader staff 17 years ago and at its peak staffing level before that.
“At one time we had a full copy design and design desk and clerks and paginators and librarians,” he said.
But Bridges did not agree with the suggestion that those were the good old days.
“I certainly wouldn’t give up computers and the internet,” he said. “The industry has changed so much. That was a big motivation for the move.”
These days, the entire newspaper staff comprises around 50, and Bridges said the newsroom staff will number 15 when a couple of vacancies are filled. A couple of reporters do regional reporting and are not based in the office, he said.
Bridges said construction is underway to prepare the new space in Hammons Tower, and when it is completed, the newspaper will occupy about half of the 11th floor, with right of first refusal on the rest of the space for possible later expansion.
As with many businesses, work at the News-Leader has been changed, maybe permanently, by COVID-19.
“The pandemic has really thrown some curve balls, and so we’ve got part of a staff that will be working mostly remotely,” Bridges said.
He added that the future is unclear, so some contingencies have been built into the plan.
“It’s really evolving, and it really differs among our teams,” he said. “The newsroom folks all want to be in the office at least part of the day – that’s sort of the goal – and so we’ve got room for the entire newsroom in the new space.”
But he said the advertising team is content to stay remote and come in just to use a printer.
“We’ve got some flex space built in for them, but for the most part they’ll be remote,” he said. “If we at some point need to do that differently, we’ll have an option to expand there.”
Bridges said his staff is excited about the move.
“You can probably tell that you’ve been in one spot too long when the thought of new chairs and cubicles is that exciting,” he said.
Bridges said it was important to him and his staff to stay in center city, and that makes Hammons Tower an ideal location.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the same downtown from a different perspective,” he said.
Bridges said he did not know the rental cost for the Hammons Tower offices, but online listings report the price as roughly $21 per square foot for a yearly agreement.
Hammons Tower was built in 1987 and is managed by Plaza Realty & Management Services.
The Forward SGF comprehensive plan was born from the input of residents, and one message that came through loud and clear was their desire for connection.