The downtown block that has served Lincoln its daily news for 135 years could soon offer the city something new, if a redevelopment plan in the key corridor between downtown and the expanding Haymarket goes through.

The Lincoln Journal Star has agreed to sell its building and property at 926 P St. to developers, said Publisher Ava Thomas.

The newspaper itself is not for sale, and would continue publishing from new offices.

“The Lincoln Journal Star has been the leader in providing local news and information for over a century, and we’ll continue to be a part of this community for many years to come,” Thomas said.

It's unclear what the unnamed development group represented by brokers Craig Forman and Todd Lorenz of Home Real Estate intends to do with the property, or whether it plans to replace or renovate the 65-year-old building.

Forman said he and Lorenz would not answer questions about the sale or their plans. But he and the developers recently approached the Journal Star with a formal intent to purchase agreement that lays out the terms of the sale and provides windows of time for either side to walk away.

Thomas did not disclose the terms of the deal. The property is valued by the county at $4.5 million.

It's not the first time interested buyers have made pitches to the paper, she said. The Journal Star has fielded offers in the past four to five years for its property, identified in the city's master plan as an important link in continuing to develop P and Q streets as retail corridors.

But the block has a storied past, too: Newspapers have been made here since 1881, when the Nebraska State Journal moved into a building at 900 P St.

The term Cornhuskers was born here in 1899. Sports Editor Cy Sherman couldn't stomach the NU football team calling itself the Bugeaters, Tree Planters and Rattlesnake Boys, so he took it upon himself to force the new name, and it stuck.

Nebraska authors Willa Cather and Mari Sandoz both worked for the paper -- Cather as features writer, Sandoz as proofreader -- in the newspaper's original building.

The existing building opened in 1951 at a cost of $1 million -- or $1.5 million, counting press machinery and equipment. The Lincoln Star joined the Lincoln Evening Journal on P Street at the same time, and the two papers operated separate newsrooms under the same roof for decades.

They merged in 1995 and, five years later, the Journal Star opened its 82,000-square-foot printing press and production plant just across Q Street to the north. That building would not be part of the deal with the development group.

The Journal Star has not yet found new offices, Thomas said.

If the deal goes through, it would join a growing number of newspapers that have sold their downtown real estate and found new homes, including the Des Moines Register, Seattle Times and Washington Post.

And it would join other longtime Lincoln businesses that have sold their properties to developers. They include Baker Hardware -- at the time, one of Lincoln's oldest retailers -- now home to 8N Lofts, a student housing complex; and the Schwarz Paper building, built 130 years ago and now offering condominiums starting at $350,000.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.

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