The Vancouver Sun and Province daily newspapers are moving out of the downtown skyscraper they have occupied for about 20 years and out to a new location in east Vancouver, as parent company Postmedia continues to report deep losses and prepares to significantly reduce its staff.
Next year's planned move, announced Thursday, will take the combined newsrooms about eight kilometres out of downtown and central Vancouver where they have been based through much of their history.
But the president of the two newspapers says the measure will help cut costs. It comes after owner Postmedia Network Canada Corp. announced another quarter of losses and a plan to cut staff costs by as much as 20 per cent.
Postmedia has said its net loss, in earnings announced last week, spiked by 84 per cent to $99.4-million in the fourth quarter as print advertising sales fell by more than 20 per cent. The company is launching a program of voluntary buyouts followed by layoffs, if necessary.
"I will say that money wasn't the driving factor, but it will be a significant improvement to our bottom line," Gordon Fisher said in an interview about the move of the Vancouver papers, but he declined to elaborate. "We're all in business and we're all looking for efficiencies and this is a very cost-effective move."
In a memo to staff, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail, Mr. Fisher wrote that "as always, the bottom line was important," and that the new lease "will significantly reduce our operating costs."
Mr. Fisher said in the interview that locations in downtown Coal Harbour and the historic Gastown area of Vancouver were considered, as well as the neighbouring city of Burnaby and elsewhere in the Lower Mainland.
However, he said the priority "symbolically" was to stay somewhere in the City of Vancouver. And he said it was a challenge to find a modern, wired space with the needed square footage and good location for commuting.
Asked about leaving downtown Vancouver, Mr. Fisher said there is more to the Lower Mainland than the downtown core of its largest city. "We conduct business all over the Lower Mainland and we cover stories all over the Lower Mainland," he said.
From the new location, Mr. Fisher said editorial and sales staff will be able to move easily throughout the region without necessarily having to head downtown.
The new location will be a 29,000-square-foot complex at the Broadway Tech Centre in East Vancouver. Both papers have been in Granville Square, a 28-storey tower on the downtown waterfront bearing the name of the Vancouver Sun and The Province, since 1997.
When the papers moved into Granville Square, a company executive said they would be getting 120,000 square feet of leased property, though their footprint has shrunk in recent years to just 44,000 square feet. Most notably, the two papers combined into a single newsroom earlier this year, as did other newspapers across the Postmedia chain.
Mr. Fisher said he did not know the exact square footage now, but that the operations currently cover five floors in the building.
Mr. Fisher said the lease for the papers' current base was set to expire on May 31, 2017. The move will take place no later than June 1.
In his memo, he wrote that the thought of a "transformational move" to signify a new beginning "was a mouth-watering dream."
He describes the new location as a "sweet spot" location for access to rapid transit – it is near the SkyTrain system – and will allow all departments to operate on one floor, thereby bolstering cross-department innovation.
He wrote that the multifloor situation at Granville Square created certain "encumbrances" for the operation, and that the new location will have "an airy, open concept design" and all new furniture.
He conceded, however, that the shift may not be easy for staff. "After 20 years in one location, we do understand change can be daunting and there are some tradeoffs in this," he wrote.
"But we are sure that as the opportunity in front of us becomes clear, you will all agree that this is the right move, offering a timely solution, exciting new facilities and a link to the long-term viability of our successful operation."