Camera property timeline

March 17, 1891: The Daily Camera newspaper begins operations on the first floor of a two-story, 50-by-90-foot building at 11th and Pearl streets in Boulder.

1918: The Camera considers moving to a new location to gain additional space, but the owner of the paper's building excavated and finished a basement as a press room to induce the Camera to stay. The Camera later bought the building.

1963: After years of remodels and additions, the building at 11th and Pearl was demolished and replaced by a new building with two floors and a basement. That structure remains as the eastern part of the present Camera headquarters.

1973: The Camera expanded the building with an addition to the west that included a new pressroom, a mail room and circulation department.

1986: The Boulder Planning Board approves the Camera's $5.2 million expansion project to build a 24,916-square-foot, two-story addition facing Walnut Street.

2008: The Camera's owners reveal plans to sell the 11th and Pearl property and the adjacent Walnut Street building.

Aug. 20, 2010: The Camera's buildings sell to Los Angeles-based Karlin Real Estate for $9 million. As a result of the sale, the Camera announces plans to move its operations to 5450 Western Ave.

Source: Camera archives

The Camera, the longest operating business in downtown Boulder, is expected to move from its home of 119 years as the newspaper's red-brick properties sold Friday to a Los Angeles-based development and investment firm.

Karlin Real Estate purchased the two buildings off 11th and Pearl streets for $9 million, said Al Manzi, the Camera's publisher. As a result of the sale, the operations for the Camera and its sister publication, the Colorado Daily, will move to a 25,000-square-foot building at 5450 Western Ave. in east Boulder.

"We've got over 70,000 square feet in these two buildings and with all of the changes we've made in terms of staffing efficiencies and consolidation, it was simply wasteful and expensive to maintain two large downtown buildings to house 120 employees," Manzi said.

Matthew Schwab, managing director for Karlin Real Estate, could not be reached for comment. In a prepared statement e-mailed to the Camera, Schwab and Karlin Real Estate officials said there are "many exciting possibilities" for the prominent downtown Boulder site.

"First and foremost, we are interested in creating a project that is meaningful to the city, the business community and, most importantly, the people of Boulder," Schwab said in the statement.

The Camera's land and two buildings off 1048 Pearl St. mark the fourth purchase in Boulder for Karlin Real Estate, an entity that has ties to billionaire and philanthropist Gary Karlin Michelson. The firm's entity, Karlin Boulder LLC, owns three other buildings in Boulder: 4745 Walnut St., 1780 Conestoga St. and 5450 Western Ave. -- the Camera's new home.

Eric Carlbom and Eric Brynestad of Jones Lang LaSalle, represented property owners MediaNews Group and the E.W. Scripps Co. in the transaction. Lynda Gibbons, of Gibbons-White, represented Karlin Real Estate in the 1048 Pearl St. sale.

The sale comes 21 months after Scripps and MediaNews -- former joint owners of the Camera -- put the buildings up for sale. Since that time, two potential buyers emerged and later withdrew their bids. That 21-month timeframe also stood witness to one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression.

"Unfortunately, we decided to sell the building at the peak of the economic recession and when banks have been extremely conservative," Manzi said. "As a result, it took us a little longer to sell what I believe is the best available real estate in Boulder."

Operational changes were the impetus behind the buildings going on the market in late 2008. That fall, the Camera shifted its primary printing operations to the Denver Newspaper Agency, shut down a smaller press off 57th Court in Boulder and moved its printing and packaging operations to Denver.

In 1973, the Daily Camera expanded its 10-year-old building with an addition to the west that included a new pressroom, a mail room and circulation
In 1973, the Daily Camera expanded its 10-year-old building with an addition to the west that included a new pressroom, a mail room and circulation department. (Camera archives)

Nearly 50 people were laid off as a result of those actions. And the 77,000-square-foot site became too big for the then 125-person company.

The Camera, now owned by MediaNews, has operated at the Pearl Street site since 1891. At that time, the newspaper occupied half of the first floor of a two-story, 50-by-90-foot building.

The building grew in size and amenities during the next 70 years until it was razed and replaced by a new building. The two-story structure built in 1963 remains today as the eastern part of the current Camera building. In 1973, an addition was made to the west. With that addition came a new press, the mail room and the circulation department.

Before the end of this year, that 11th and Pearl chapter of the paper's history will come to a close if the Camera and Colorado Daily employees move as expected to 5450 Western Ave.

The move is a reflection of the changing times in the media industry, Manzi said. The Camera -- now sans printing press -- is a more nimble entity that will be served better by a smaller, "state-of-the-art building" outfitted specifically for the changing media industry, the technology shifts and the needs of the newspaper's Prairie Mountain Publishing operations.

"As they say, change is inevitable and this change will be positive for the community and it will be positive for Boulder," he said.

The 11th and Pearl property is a "once-in-a-century opportunity," for development, said Richard Foy, a founding principal of Communication Arts, the Boulder-based firm that designed the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder and Madison Square Garden in New York.

Communication Arts, which recently was acquired by Stantec, last year worked closely with one of the first potential buyers of the Camera. The hope then and the potential now, Foy said, is to create something that continued the cadence and the rhythm of the Pearl Street Mall; a property that would offer a contiguous 65,000-square-foot space to attract a large high-tech firm; and a development that could exemplify sustainability.

"It's a unique property," he said. "It can only be developed once. Once you develop it, that's going to last 100 years."

Any redevelopment of the site could come with some heavy costs, said Lou DellaCava, a Boulder-area property owner and one of the initial bidders on the Camera's sites.

"You've got to look at redevelopment to be an economic challenge," he said. "...Whatever goes there would have to be significant, important and I don't think the (City Council) or the Planning Board is going to be very easy on the person proposing (a redevelopment)."

The Camera properties' $9 million purchase price is a fair amount, said Becky Callan Gamble, president of Boulder-based Dean Callan & Co.

"I also think the buyer is looking at this as a very long-term process and the buyer's assuming a substantial amount of risk," she said.

Despite the weakened economy and struggles faced by some commercial areas, downtown Boulder remains one of the strongest submarkets in Boulder, Gamble said, noting a vacancy rate of 10 percent.

The sale comes with some opportunities, said Sean Maher, executive director of Downtown Boulder Inc., who called the property the "premier piece" of available real estate in Boulder.

The sale, however, also comes at a large cost, he added.

"Obviously the Camera has been here for 119 years and we'd hate to lose the Daily Camera -- it's a community institution," he said. "... Any lost job downtown is a negative and certainly 120 is significant."

Silvia Pettem, a Boulder historian who writes a column for the Camera, equated the departure to the past closures of the Smith Shoe Co. and Tom's Tavern.

"To see places that have been around for a long time leave downtown just changes the whole composition of downtown," she said. "It's just not what it used to be."