Empty newspaper buildings could become condos

With the newspaper business on the ropes, real estate pros are wondering, could more printing plants and newspaper offices be converted once the market eventually picks up?

Past well-known examples are the conversion of the old New York Times headquarters and the old New York Post building. Now a new condo marketing campaign is displaying nostalgia for the days of typewriters and copy boys.

At the former Ridgewood Times newspaper building at 852 Cypress Avenue in Queens, the presses stopped long ago, though the paper still publishes under a different name at another location. (Thanks to desktop publishing programs and the Internet, these days many publications are sent to be printed off-site.)

The old newspaper building served as a public school since the 1960s, but developer N. S. Construction turned it into 19 condos that opened for occupancy in late April. As of early last month, five of the condos had sold.

The marketing campaign plays up the 25,000-square-foot structure’s pedigree: The Web site’s home page features a simulated 1920s typewriter that spits out hyperlinked copy on a virtual piece of yellowed paper, complete with staccato sound effects.

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The developers are hoping that the building, on the Queens-Brooklyn border, will generate interest. David Maundrell, president of aptsandlofts.com, which is marketing the building, said it translates well into residential living because of its high ceilings, concrete floors and a wall of windows that let the sun shine in. “It’s soundproof like a vault,” Maundrell said.

As the crow flies, the neighborhood isn’t too far from Manhattan, and lies just east of burgeoning Bushwick, which has attracted many artists due to its low prices for true loft space and the thrill of living on the edge in what is still an ungentrified pocket of Brooklyn. “Our buyers are either those with blue-collar roots, like nurses and firefighters, who have steady jobs no matter the economy, and artists and professionals displaced from Williamsburg or Greenpoint,” said Maundrell. “They like the new construction as opposed to something that needs to be renovated.”

Prices range from $279,000 for a 550-square-foot studio with a sleeping loft to $499,000 for a 1,150-square-foot, one-bedroom duplex with a private roof deck.

Many former manufacturing buildings are coming onto the market in the city, said Robert Knakal, chairman of investment sales firm Massey Knakal Realty Services. Africa Israel USA signed its first retail tenants in March, at a reported $275 per square foot, at the old New York Times headquarters on West 43rd Street, where the presses last roared in 1997. The paper abandoned it a decade later for its new Eighth Avenue digs.

In 1999, GHC Development Corporation turned the old New York Post building at 75 West Street in the Financial District into rental residences. The paper’s former headquarters along the FDR Drive at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge has been converted into a storage center.

Ridgewood is a tougher sell, of course. Surrounded by industrial areas of Maspeth and the immigrant nabe of Glendale, the building is a three-block walk from the ninth stop on the L line, considered the “hipster express” because of its stylishly dressed young riders, who may appreciate the irony of living in a defunct printing press in the digital era.