Gatehouse Media has hired Syracuse, N.Y.-based Bell Tenant Champions to help negotiate a new home for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
The New York-based parent company of the Herald-Tribune Media Group has retained a commercial real estate brokerage firm from that state to help negotiate a future headquarters for the Sarasota media group — a move that could result in its exit from its iconic three-story office building downtown.
Gatehouse Media’s decision to hire Bell Tenant Champions of Syracuse, N.Y., could result in a new home office for the media operation, which has been based at 1741 Main St. in Sarasota since 2005.Bell Tenant has previously worked for Stantec, Time Warner Cable and others, according to its website, in New York.
The Herald-Tribune’s lease for its space in the 55,000-square-foot building expired earlier this year, but it successfully negotiated an extension until April 2018.
Bell Tenant’s hiring came just weeks before the Herald-Tribune was expected to sign a long-term lease for roughly 30,000 square feet of space in 1741 Main, according to commercial real estate sources.
That lease would have required the Herald-Tribune to vacate the building’s third floor and consolidate operations on the second floor. An open-air stairway connecting floors two and three would have been eliminated as part of that deal with owner Stephens Capital, the Little Rock, Ark.-based investment firm that owns the 1741 Main building.
Stephens also was co-owner of the media company when it was owned by Halifax Media, which sold to Gatehouse in early 2015 as part of a $280 million deal.
Bell Tenant’s hiring scuttled that transaction.
Greg Cleghorn, a Bell Tenant agent, declined to comment extensively on its work on the Herald-Tribune’s behalf.
“I’m not in a position to comment one way or another,” he said.
He referred inquires to Bell Tenant CEO Mark Bethmann, who was in Sarasota earlier this week. Bethmann could not be reached. Herald-Tribune publisher Pat Dorsey also did not return a telephone call for comment.
If the Herald-Tribune does vacate 1741 Main, it would likely result in the largest new office deal in the Sarasota/Manatee office market in the past year.
A lease renewal at 1741 also would rank as one of the largest in Sarasota County in the past year, according to data from research firm CoStar Group Inc.
The Herald-Tribune has occupied the downtown building since it was built as a single-tenant structure more than a decade ago. The building is currently occupied by the media group, television station SNN and Iberia Bank, which occupies a portion of the second floor.
The media company’s space requirements have shrunk in recent years amid staff reductions.
The Herald-Tribune will have few existing choices if it does decide to leave 1741 Main, however. Currently, only Main Plaza and the Plaza at Five Points buildings downtown have enough available space to meet its requirement, though the space at the latter building is not contiguous.
The Herald-Tribune has also been considering various build-to-suit possibilities with local developers, sources with knowledge of the Herald-Tribune’s site selection process say.