Real Estate

GR Press furnishings on auction block

The Michigan Street building is open today and Tuesday morning for previews.

July 19, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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GR Press auction
More than 1,200 lots will be up for auction Tuesday and Wednesday at the former site of The Grand Rapids Press. Photo by Scott Sommerfeld
An online auction will be held Tuesday and Wednesday to liquidate all the furnishings, décor and equipment remaining in the former Grand Rapids Press building in downtown Grand Rapids.

Doug Watkoski of btmindustrial.com, which is handling the liquidation for MLive/Grand Rapids Press, said there are about 1,200 lots of items to be auctioned. Michigan State University is the new owner of the former Press headquarters at 155 Michigan St. NW. Watkoski said he understands MSU will take possession around the start of September.

Watkoski said the auction is “basically, all the contents that are left,” including possibly 500 or more office chairs, plus file cabinets, executive office suites and office cubicles accommodating one or more persons.

There is a great deal of diversity among the other objects for sale, he said. The items include dozens of framed photos, posters and significant pages of various editions of the Press that decorated the walls throughout the office areas. There’s even an OSHA poster reminding employees to use gloves and hearing protection.

The building also had a cafeteria, and kitchen equipment and furnishings are included in the auction, down to the booths and the café drinking fountain. There was also a fully equipped maintenance department, and its remaining tools and equipment are on the auction list.

The printing presses that had been in the lower level of the building were removed long ago, according to Watkoski.

Some freelance journalists had been working for MLive in the building as recently as last fall.

The Press had a much larger staff in the years before the recession, when newspapers across the state owned by Advance Publications began downsizing.

As for the online auction, which starts Tuesday afternoon, there are “no minimums, no reserves. Most of the lots start at $5,” said Watkoski. “Basically, everything there has got to go. We’re trying to find new homes for a lot of stuff that is still very usable.”

Some of the equipment is apparently obsolete, such as a Leitz Focomat photo enlarger with stand. But Watkoski added that much of the equipment is “in very, very good condition.”

“Some of the IT stuff, people paid a gazillion dollars for a long time ago. It’s worth hardly anything, but if someone needs it, it’s still kind of neat,” he said.

From 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday morning, the building will be open to the public so potential bidders can preview the goods. The items can also be seen online at www.btmindustrial.com. Click on Auction Schedule and then on the listing for July 23/24. The website links to bidspotter.com, where photos can be seen and bids entered. Photos of the goods are listed separately for day one and for day two.

Watkoski said the first day of the auction will be mainly items more oriented to consumers, such as chairs ideal for a home office. Day two will be goods more appropriate for a business, such as the maintenance items, cafeteria equipment and office cubicles.

Watkoski is the president of btmindustrial.com, which is located on Three Mile Road in northwest Grand Rapids. The four-year-old company specializes in online liquidations of industrial and commercial equipment.

The new offices of The Grand Rapids Press are at 169 Monroe Ave. NW. The Press is one of several Michigan newspapers owned by Advance Publications, one of America’s largest, privately held communications companies. Advance Publications is owned by the Newhouse family of New York, and has newspapers, magazines and websites in more than 25 American cities. In October 2011, Advance Publications created MLive Media Group from the former Booth Newspapers. MLive includes eight print newspapers and two websites in Michigan, according to an article published last year at poynter.org by Steve Newhouse, chairman of the digital division of Advance Publications.

Newhouse wrote in his August 2012 article that from 2009 through 2011, American newspaper print advertising revenue declined by 16.6 percent. Newspaper advertising revenue from digital ads during that time increased by 18.5 percent, although from a smaller base.

The Advance weekly newspapers in West Michigan also are part of MLive Media Group, in addition to The Grand Rapids Press, Muskegon Chronicle, Jackson Citizen Patriot, The Flint Journal, The Bay City Times, The Saginaw News, Kalamazoo Gazette and AnnArbor.com.

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