Construction work begins on former Journal campus

Work has begun in earnest on a multi-phase project involving the former King County Journal campus in Kent.

A crane demolishes a portion of the former King County Journal editorial offices March 26 in Kent. The remainder of the building will house Holmes Electric

Work has begun in earnest on a multi-phase project involving the former King County Journal campus in Kent.

Last week, a crane demolished the north end of the former newspaper’s editorial offices – the opening salvo of a project that ultimately will see the location of a new fitness center and the relocation of a Renton electric business.

According to Seattle developer Mike McKernan, who purchased the 5.3-acre site Aug. 13 with fellow developer Larry Benaroya, Kent’s newest additions will be facilities for international gym chain L.A. Fitness and Renton’s Holmes Electric.

L.A. Fitness will open a gym in the Journal’s former press plant, while Holmes Electric will be moving its operations to the remainder of the KCJ editorial offices. The moves will follow extensive renovations to both facilities.

Mike Richards, chief executive officer of Holmes Electric, said Friday his company will be moving its entire administrative staff to the new locale by fall.

“We couldn’t find anything in Renton that we could afford that was usable,” Richards said, noting the Kent site also was attractive because “the access is good,” and because the majority of company employees live in south King County.

The former KCJ facility is located less than a quarter-mile from a major State Route 167 access point, and within a couple of miles of Interstate 5.

Holmes Electric was in the market for a new location because its current facility, located at 1422 Raymond, is on property that will be used by the state Department of Transportation for a future State Route 405 project.

“We’re on the south side of 405, and all of this property has been sold to DOT for improvements to 405,” Richards noted.

Richards said his company, which has been in Renton since its founding in 1945, will be moving approximately 50 employees. The new facility, he said, will be in 18,000 square feet of what remains of the Journal’s editorial offices, which will be completely renovated.

“We are largely gutting it,” Richards said of the building. Representatives for L.A. Fitness could not be reached prior to deadline to comment on plans for the former Journal press building. However, McKernan said the building, once constructed to house the Journal’s massive newspaper press, will see extensive renovations as well.

Part of last week’s demolition of the editorial building – which sits directly behind the press plant – was to provide space for the fitness center’s renovations, McKernan said.

The Reporter was unable to establish an occupancy date from L.A. Fitness. Calls to the international fitness chain, based in Irvine, Calif., went unaswered Friday.

McKernan and Benaroya, who have worked in tandem on other developments in the Puget Sound area, purchased the former KCJ campus in August from Sound Publishing, following the Journal’s closure in January 2007.

They bought the property and buildings for $9.35 million. Sound Publishing, in turn, moved its group of community newspapers – including the Kent, Covington-Maple Valley, Renton and Auburn Reporters – out of the KCJ editorial building to their respective communities last summer and fall.

Sound Publishing also moved the former KCJ press from the Kent plant to a more centralized location at Paine Field in Everett last summer.

In an interview shortly after the purchase, Benaroya noted the property was a good investment.

“It was an available property at a location we thought had value for a subsequent user,” he told the Kent Reporter in August.

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