St. Bernards Healthcare’s purchase of the Jonesboro Sun’s landmark newspaper building downtown produced the biggest numbers in a fourth-quarter trend of Arkansas news organizations peddling prime real estate: Sale price, $2.1 million.
The buyer was St. Bernards’ Total Life Healthcare Inc., according to county real estate records.
Nearly 250 miles to the southwest, an auction of the old Hope Star building on West Third Street drew a winning bid of $89,000 by RJO Investments, whose Hope Builders Depot store is practically next door.
A third newspaper landmark, the 1985-vintage Pine Bluff Commercial building, was also sold at auction, a New York real estate firm says, but no transfer had been recorded at the Jefferson County Assessor’s Office as of Dec. 22, and no sale price was immediately available.
With its newspaper business sold to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2020, the Commercial provides more modest space for editor Byron Tate and his team in the Donald W. Reynolds Community Services Center on West Third Avenue. That building, incidentally, is named for the Arkansas publisher who founded Donrey Media Group of Fort Smith and once owned the Commercial.
In the big Jonesboro deal, the seller of the 19,000-SF former National Guard armory at 518 Carson St. was PMG Community Newspaper Group LLC, an affiliate of Paxton Media Group of Paducah, Kentucky. Paxton bought the paper and the building from its longtime publishers, Jonesboro’s Troutt family, in October 2000.
After shifting the Sun’s printing operation to the home base in Paducah earlier this year, Paxton had far more space than it needed in Jonesboro, officials said. The chain, which owns five other Arkansas newspapers, chose to move the Sun’s news, advertising and circulation teams into leased space at 1300 Stone Street in Jonesboro. Those offices are in the Foxwood Square office park south of Arkansas State University.
St. Bernards Medical Center is just opposite the old Sun building, which is sandwiched between the hospital grounds and St. Bernards’ auditorium.
St. Bernards spokesman Mitchell Nail said it was “prepping something that we feel will be significant for St. Bernards and for the community at large,” but he wouldn’t get into specifics, saying an announcement is coming. “We will be wanting to keep the building … to restore it and make it a thriving part of downtown Jonesboro. It has cultural significance, and we feel it will be a good fit for our St. Bernards system.”
The $2.1 million price for the building, which the Sun had acquired in 1968, was registered with the assessor’s office at the Craighead County Courthouse.
The 12,000-SF Hope Star building was sold by the Gannett Co. of McLean, Virginia, the largest newspaper chain in the United States and the successor to GateHouse Media of Pittsford, New York, which owned the Star and shut down publication in 2018, along with the Daily Siftings Herald in Arkadelphia and the Nevada County Picayune in Prescott.
The $89,000 sale price was on file at the Hempstead County Assessor’s Office, which listed the buyer as RJO Investments, led by John Odom and doing business as Hope Builders Depot. An employee who answered the phone on Wednesday confirmed the company had bought the building and was using it so far for storage. John Odom, he said, was out of the office until after Christmas. The Hope Star sign on the exterior has been replaced by one for Builders Depot and Pittsburgh Paints.
Gannett, which kept its name even after being acquired by GateHouse in a $1.1 billion deal in 2019, also put the Pine Bluff Commercial’s 39,000-SF newspaper building up for auction this quarter through the commercial real estate firm BellCornerstone of Syracuse, New York, which set a minimum bid of $25,000.
Hollie Bethmann, BellCornerstone’s chief legal advocate, confirmed in a Dec. 23 email to Arkansas Business that the property has been sold. She would not disclose the buyer or the price, though informed speculation in the local real estate market put the amount above $500,000.
The Jefferson County Assessor’s Office said no sale of the property had been officially recorded as of Dec. 22. County records show that the owner is still DB Arkansas Holdings Inc., an old Stephens Media Group company inherited by GateHouse and then by Gannett.
Arkansas Business will update this story after the latest transaction becomes public record.