Courier building up for sale

UPDATE: 8:35 p.m.

Union spokesman Pat Bulmer says news of Kelowna's only daily newspaper property being for sale does not necessarily mean the end is near for The Daily Courier.

"News that the Courier building is for sale is not necessarily surprising, although the company had not told us about it," Bulmer said Wednesday night.

"The way Kelowna is developing downtown, the Courier is sitting on a valuable piece of property. It might be worth the owner’s while to get a good price for it. Perhaps he could move the business elsewhere or, as has become a common business practice, including in newspapers, he could sell the building and lease it back."

Bulmer said it makes sense that the owner might want to see what he could get for it.

"A For Sale sign doesn’t guarantee a sale will happen," he added.

A statement has yet to be given by company management.

ORIGINAL: 8:15 p.m.

Following a recent round of layoffs and consolidations, Kelowna's oldest media company has listed its building and property for sale.

The Daily Courier property on Doyle Avenue has been listed by NAI Commercial Okanagan Ltd. for $12.7 million.

The move follows successive rounds of layoffs over the past decade, the most recent coming earlier this month when the paper's only photographer, Gary Nylander, and layout editor Grant Jones were let go.

Unifor, the union representing Courier employees, is grieving the layoffs, union rep Pat Bulmer said in a Facebook post this week.

The Courier was founded in 1904 as the Kelowna Clarion. During its heyday in the early 1990s, the Courier employed well over 100 people. Lately, that number has been cut closer to half.

According to Audit Bureau of Circulation figures from 2015 (the latest available online), its paid circulation had fallen to just 7,700 copies a day, and, given the decline of print media, is likely less than that today.

The latest development follows consolidation of its Okanagan Saturday and Sunday editions into a single weekend edition last year.

Following the departure of former publisher Terry Armstrong in 2017, the Courier and its sister paper the Penticton Herald have been managed by former Herald general manager Ed Kennedy. Shortly after that, the Courier's managing editor, Doyle Potenteau was let go and was replaced by Herald editor James Miller, who assumed responsibility for both papers.

The latest layoffs leave seven employees in the newsroom, and Bulmer says the union, which has been without a contract since 2016, is expecting to enter contract negotiations soon.

NAI describes the 1.644-acre site as a "highly coveted downtown Kelowna Cultural District corner development site for highrise mixed use."

The 30,000-square-foot 550 Doyle Avenue building was built in 1974. It is owned by Continental Newspapers, which in turn is owned by media baron David Radler. The company also owns the Herald in Penticton, and Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal in Ontario. It also publishes the Westside Weekly out of the Courier offices.

Vancouver-based Glacier Media owns a 27.6 per cent share in Continental and recently closed the Whistler Question and Vancouver Westender newspapers, as well as reducing frequency of some other Lower Mainland papers.

Current zoning of the Courier property allows for highrise construction of up to 12 storeys.

The NAI listing says "the value of the property is in the land, but the current improvements offer stable holding income given location and onsite parking."

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