Former landmark Times-Picayune building sold to local group for $3.5 million

A Howard Avenue landmark that housed The Times-Picayune’s operations and its printing presses for almost a half-century has been sold to a group of local businessmen that includes developer Joseph Jaeger Jr., records show.

Jaeger’s group, 3800 Howard Investors LLC, closed on the $3.5 million deal Sept. 2, according to Orleans Parish Civil District Court records, which list the site at 8.9 acres.

Peter Aamodt, senior development manager of Jaeger’s firm, MCC Real Estate, said Tuesday that the group has “no immediate plans” for the property.

“It was a good investment at the right time and the right place,” he said.

Jaeger’s group also includes float builder Barry Kern, president of Mardi Gras World, and developer Arnold Kirschman, whose family operated furniture stores in the metro area for nearly a century.

“They have no specific plans or projected uses,” Aamodt said. “They just want to participate in the growing New Orleans economy, and feel like the neighborhoods surrounding that location continue to get better.”

The sale includes “everything except the furniture and the presses,” Aamodt said, presumably including a custom Art Deco panel display in the building’s front lobby that was created by Mexican-born artist Enrique Alferez.

When the building opened in 1968, “huge crowds lined up for a tour,” The Times-Picayune wrote in 2011 as part of a 175th anniversary feature.

Rumors of a potential sale began swirling earlier this summer as workers were seen removing the presses and taking the newspaper’s name down from the building’s iconic clock tower alongside Interstate 10.

In June, the newspaper said that “an undisclosed buyer” had signed a deal to acquire the building, but it said it was limited by a confidentiality agreement from disclosing details of the transaction.

The plant has been mostly vacant in recent years.

The Times-Picayune announced in 2012 that it would reduce the number of days it produces a print newspaper to embrace a digital-first strategy. In early 2013, the newspaper moved much of its staff downtown to the top two floors of One Canal Place.

In late 2014, the paper said it would outsource its printing operations to a facility in Mobile, Alabama, that prints The Press-Register, another newspaper owned by The Times-Picayune’s New York-based owners, Advance Publications.

As part of that move, The Times-Picayune converted its former East Jefferson bureau in Metairie into a design studio that lays out the local newspaper’s pages as well as those of other Advance-owned newspapers in Alabama and Mississippi.

Previous announced layoffs have claimed more than 300 workers.

For Jaeger, the deal marks his latest bet in local real estate developments.

Jaeger also owns the former Market Street power plant after making an $8.72 million bid for the riverfront property at a foreclosure auction last year.

That 20-acre site is near the upriver end of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Jaeger is part of another team of developers negotiating with the Convention Center’s governing board to serve as master developer of a potentially $1.5 billion public-private partnership for a 47-acre tract between the center and the old power plant.

Those plans call for building a large hotel, restaurants, entertainment venues and apartments on the vacant land at the upriver end of the giant assembly hall.

Richard Thompson