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In Globe’s wake: Opportunity

This month’s Boston Magazine piece on Boston Globe owner and publisher John Henry’s plans for his stewardship of the paper includes the first concrete indication that he will be relocating operations from its 56-year-old Dorchester campus in the not-too-distant future.

The 5,000-word article, written by the magazine’s Jason Schwartz, includes this key paragraph:

“[Henry has] “decided that it’s time for the Globe to make a move. The prospective sale of the paper’s 16-acre Morrissey Boulevard property, he says, ‘will provide us with the ability to move into a smaller, more efficient and modern facility in the heart of the city. We believe that there is enough excess value there to fund very important investments in our long-term future, if the community supports development of the property.’”

The concept of the Globe one day decamping from Morrissey Boulevard — either en masse or in pieces — is hardly novel. In fact, the community and city government anticipated the likelihood of an evolving use for the Globe property during a master planning process for Columbia Point that commenced in 2008. A mayorally appointed task force — mainly composed of residents and stakeholders from Savin Hill and the peninsula — worked on the planning exercise for three years.

The final document, published in June 2011 and available on the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s website, outlined what could be a dramatic transformation of the Morrissey Boulevard corridor over the next 20-to-25-year “time horizon.” At full “build-out,” the master plan anticipates as much as 5.7 million square feet of development — much of it clustered along Mt. Vernon Street and along the stretch of the boulevard between JFK-UMass station and the Globe plant.

The final master plan document envisions a “unique, mixed-use neighborhood unto itself” on what is now the Globe site and adjacent land. It also introduces a qualifier: “At this time, the Boston Globe has no plans to move or redevelop its property.

If the Globe were to relocate, the master plan envisions a new “multi-modal” one-way street that would bisect the current Globe plant between Savin Hill and the T station, knitting together” neighborhoods, shopping districts, open spaces, and the waterfront.”

The current value of the Globe’s 72,000-square foot property at 135 Morrissey Blvd. is assessed at $40,326,500 by the city, but is likely worth much more than that on the open market. Given that Henry reportedly paid the New York Times Co. about $70 million for the Globe and its other related holdings, the Dorchester property represents a critical asset for his new media outfit.

Left unreported in the magazine article is the fate of the massive printing operation adjacent to the editorial and business offices. The Globe circulates about 215,000 copies daily and 360,000 on Sunday, and also prints and delivers press runs for the Boston Herald, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy, the Enterprise of Brockton, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and regional editions of The New York Times, according to a Globe story from last June.

If Henry does move forward on a relocation, the work of the Columbia Point Task Force will be put to the test quickly and Mayor Marty Walsh will have an opportunity to put his stamp on what could become a large redevelopment project in his own backyard.

– Bill Forry