The Evening Express could be set to return to its “spiritual home” of Broad Street in the heart of Aberdeen.
Aberdeen Journals, publishers of the EE, Aberdeen Citizen and Press and Journal, is poised to be among the first tenants to move into the £107 million Marischal Square development on Broad Street when it opens next year.
The move will bring the papers back to the city centre – just a stone’s throw from their former offices, where they were printed from 1894 until they moved to the Lang Stracht in the 1970s.
The proposed move would see AJL taking a top floor of the development allowing staff in editorial, digital, advertising, marketing and commercial to work in a modern environment, in the heart of the town. Detailed negotiations are still taking place, but it is hoped the business could be in the new offices by next summer.
The chairman of parent company DC Thomson said the proposed move would be a “great opportunity”, while council leader Jenny Laing described it as a “genuine boost” towards the regeneration of Aberdeen city centre.
Since May 2013, both papers have been printed in Dundee after a new multi-million pound system was installed at DC Thomson’s base, leaving the print hall in the Lang Stracht lying empty.
It is estimated that bringing the 1970s building up to standard would cost millions.
However, the firm’s highly successful digital arm Brightsolid will continue to operate from Mastrick.
DC Thomson chairman Andrew Thomson said: “We are excited to be considering a move back to the middle of the city. Aberdeen Journals has been based at the Lang Stracht for around 40 successful years, but the potential to return to the centre of Aberdeen provides our newspaper teams with a great opportunity to be at the heart of the city once again.”
Evening Express Editor Alan McCabe added: “The prospect of moving back into the heart of Aberdeen is an exciting one for the Evening Express, not least because it underlines our commitment to the city we’ve served for almost 140 years.”
Aberdeen Journals’ editor-in-chief Damian Bates acknowledged the Marischal Square development had been controversial but said the proposed move was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.
“Our primary concern is for the wellbeing of our colleagues and to provide us all with the best possible working environment,” he said.
“We know Marischal Square has divided opinion, however, it is clear it is being built and the facilities will be among some of the finest in the UK and beyond.
“It’s in no one’s interests for it to sit empty and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to head back home; back into the city centre where we belong and where The Press and Journal started its amazing journey more than 270 years ago.
“We are now a multi-media business and this prospective move will provide a bright future for the Evening Express, P&J, Energy Voice and all our other products and sites. The council has been our landlord since approximately 1970 so nothing is going to change.
“There’s still a long way to go before a deal is done and we can start to plan any kind of move, but the overwhelming belief of the staff at Aberdeen Journals is this is a move we’re all incredibly excited about.”
If the deal goes through, the business would join the Marriott Hotel group and All Bar One as confirmed tenants.
Aberdeen City Council is currently working on its 25-year masterplan for the city centre, which will breathe new life into area through a range of proposed projects, including pedestrianising Broad Street and Union Street, and creating a public square at Castlegate.
Council leader Jenny Laing said: “The Press and Journal and Evening Express are two of the best regional dailies in the country and seeing them move back to their spiritual home of Broad Street, and be at the cutting edge of Aberdeen City Council’s regeneration of the city centre, will send a strong signal to its readers and other stakeholders it believes in the programme of change taking place here.”