Columbia College Chicago to transform 820 S. Michigan into library
CHICAGO – Johnson Publishing Co, Inc. (JPC) announced this week the sale of its Michigan Avenue headquarters building to Columbia College Chicago and launched its search for a new home as the legendary publisher opens the next chapter in its history.
Under its founder, the late John Johnson, the company moved into the building after its completion in 1972. In his biography, Johnson wrote of having to buy the property through a proxy because of unwillingness to sell to an African American.
The architect was John Moutoussamy. Johnson Publishing always asserted that its building was the first important Chicago structure designed by an African American since Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable’s cabin two centuries earlier.
The buyer and seller would not discuss fi nancial terms. Sources said the sale, which includes a parking garage at 801 S. Wabash, was for almost $8 million.
In that case, a main creditor of Johnson Publishing may have sustained a loss. In 2009, Johnson Publishing had trouble paying its printing bill to R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., so Donnelley took out mortgages for about $12 million on the Johnson-owned properties.
Back in June 2009, Juan Williams wrote an article detailing the severe hit that Johnson Publishing Company had taken amid the economic hit that millions of individuals have taken. He stated that sharp drops in advertising and circulation had caused the largest Black-owned publishing company to make some drastic changes. In addition to the printing bill, the company had also been hit with contractor’s liens totally in the neighborhood of $500,000, these were reportedly satisfied prior to the sale of the building this week.
The struggles of Ebony and Jet, the two main products of the company puts a magnifying glass on the challenges that publishing houses are having throughout the country. And as the saying goes “when the mainstream catches a cold, Black folks get pneumonia.”
Black media budgets were already under-allocated even in good economic times, now that budgets have been slashed across the board, Black media is feeling it the most.
Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing released the following statement regarding the sale of Michigan Avenue’s first Blackowned high rise building.
The move is another step in JPC’s corporate strategy to advance its business plan and serve the current needs of the company.
“I am so proud that this wonderful building, which has served Johnson Publishing so well since 1971, will continue to have a rich legacy under the stewardship of Columbia College Chicago,” said Johnson Rice, “When we learned of Columbia’s interest in preserving the building and using it to expand opportunities for young people to study visual, performing, media and communication arts, we knew this was an opportunity that we should pursue.”
Columbia College Chicago Board of Trustees chairman Allen Turner said, “The purchase of the Johnson Building offered us a rare opportunity for much needed expansion, especially given that the space is central to our South Loop campus. Just as important, we will have a part in preserving the legacy of the Johnson Building and its legendary significance to all Chicagoans.”
JPC said that it currently utilizes only about 40 percent of the building and moving its headquarters is part of the overall strategy to reduce costs as it refocuses on the core functions of its publishing and cosmetics businesses. JPC has had four company headquarters in Chicago since its founding in 1942.
“The sale of 820 S. Michigan is part of the continuing evolution of the company that my father and mother started in the early 1942s,” said Rice. “Just as when JPC moved to this location in 1972, my father would be the first to say it makes good business sense to relocate to space that serves the current needs of the company.”
The 11-story, 110,000 square-foot historic building, which has been home to EBONY and JET magazines as well as Fashion Fair Cosmetics for almost 40 years, was completed in 1972.
Terms call for JPC to continue to occupy the building under an 18-month lease. The company will appoint a building committee to help determine where to relocate its worldwide headquarters. The JPC building’s sale closed this week.