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Sun-Times moves out, clears way for Trump

Sun-Times moves out, clears way for Trump

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CHICAGO (AP) -- It may have brought some luster to the riverfront when it was built a half century ago, but today the Chicago Sun-Times building looks like it belongs there about as much as a barge at a yacht club.

On Friday, the Sun-Times staff was moving out of the newspaper's squat seven-story home, clearing the way for Donald Trump to demolish it and build a glitzy 90-story condominium and hotel tower that's more in keeping with what the riverfront has become.

"So much changed, and we became the scruffy house on the block," said David Roeder, who reports on commercial real estate for the paper.

There was never much talk about preserving the building that, as the story goes, was actually supposed to look like a river barge. It has long been denigrated as an ugly building, perhaps the ugliest in a city that prides itself on fine architecture.

But the building was also a big part of the history of Chicago journalism.

Legendary newsman Mike Royko worked there. So did Ann Landers. Bill Mauldin was working there when he drew a famous editorial cartoon of the Abraham Lincoln statue from the Lincoln Memorial grieving the assassination of President Kennedy.

As the Sun-Times staff packed up for the move farther up the river to another ordinary looking building, there was little talk of wanting to stay in a place that everybody agrees had been allowed to fall apart.

"It's scarred, stained, the walls are grimy," said Dan Miller, the paper's business editor. "We are well rid of it, the neighborhood is well rid of it."

The condition of the building is also a reminder of the paper's recent troubles, including allegations that Conrad Black, the former CEO of parent company Hollinger International, conspired with associates to loot the newspaper company of more than $400 million -- nearly all of its profits from 1997 through 2003.

"David Radler (the former publisher) and Conrad Black never invested in the place," Miller said. "The building was allowed to deteriorate."

If staffers are happy to be leaving a gray box where escalators don't run and the ladies room furniture hasn't changed in more than 30 years, the move still prompted plenty of nostalgic talk.

"I guess it's not a big deal, but it's a sad deal," said Jeanne Lambin, a former preservation planner with the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. "It is one of the last vestiges of the industrial river we used to have."

And it looks like a newspaper building. "It was used a lot (in movies and television shows) as a newspaper backdrop," said Neil Steinberg, a Sun-Times columnist.

Reporters say there was nothing better than writing a story and going to the lobby to watch the presses churn out the commuter edition of the paper.

But the paper has not been printed on site for a few years. "That romance has already left," reporter Jim Ritter said.

The building occupied by the Sun-Times since 1958 won't be demolished immediately. Russell Flicker, executive vice president with The Trump Organization, said that once the Sun-Times officially notifies the company that it has moved out, demolition will take about four months.

Trump's planned building may be the kind of structure that fits into the neighborhood today, but Steinberg suggested that in its day the Sun-Times was not an eyesore, but an attraction.

"Whatever you think of the building now, in the '50s this is what people wanted," Steinberg said. "This was a jet age building."

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