An expanded Union |

An expanded Union

The Union newspaper was, as its motto has always said, “founded in 1864 to preserve the Union… One and Inseparable.” But the newspaper itself has for years been divided ” by a parking lot.

The newspaper’s business office – the source of subscribers’ monthly bills – operates from a commercial center across from The Union’s main building at 464 Sutton Way in Grass Valley. The parking lot also serves as storage for unsightly pallets, mail carts, and old newspaper dispensers, which currently are tucked behind a concrete block wall.

In celebration of its 140th birthday this fall, The Union plans to end the parking lot-imposed division by expanding and refurbishing its 26-year-old facility. The $1.4-million project will add about 5,000 square feet to the 15,000-square-foot building.

The additional space primarily will be used to expand the mailroom, where newspapers are assembled and bundled for delivery routes, and to provide storage for newsprint and advertising inserts.

Construction will begin in October and extend until June 2005. When it is completed, visitors will first glimpse the remodeled facility when they pull into a parking space next to additional trees and flowers.

They will enter the building through a covered walkway along a wall of natural stone and rusted corrugated metal, passing by the mountain lion family – a gift from a former owner’s family – that currently guards the entrance.

Publisher Jeff Ackerman said The Union wanted its improved headquarters to reflect the region’s mining heritage.

“This is Gold Country, and we were there at the beginning,” Ackerman said.

The Grass Valley Development Review Committee, which examined the project Tuesday, lauded the design and approved it for an appearance before the Planning Commission on Aug. 17.

“(The design has a) really a nice style that’s appropriate for the history of Grass Valley and Nevada City,” said architect Tony Rosas, a member of the city’s review committee.

From under a sheltering metal awning, visitors will enter a revamped lobby that “(will be) a lot more welcoming; it will be more clear where to go,” said project architect Nori Whisenand of Deer Creek Studios in Nevada City.

Visitors to The Union won’t be the project’s only beneficiaries – the paper’s 90 employees will get modern work stations and more natural light.

The expansion is primarily functional, however. The Union’s mailroom is crowded, and rolls of newsprint are stacked to the ceiling in an adjacent storage room. The building’s heating and cooling system dates to the 1970s, and the newspaper rents office space for its business department.

The remodeled facility will have additional storage space, comply with federal accessibility standards, and use more-efficient heating and cooling, said contractor Keoni Allen of Sierra Foothills Construction.

The tricky part will be remodeling the building while employees continue to produce a newspaper every day, Allen said.

“There’s always somebody in the building,” Allen said. “We’re going to have to create some temporary spaces (and do some) evening and weekend work.”

The workers will need to tear out the main office’s ceiling and replace duct work and lighting above reporters, advertising sales representatives and other newspaper employees.

“That’s going to be interesting,” Allen said with a laugh.

Visitors will only be inconvenienced for about 60 days this winter, when customers will be routed to a temporary lobby, Allen said.

The Sutton Way facility is The Union’s third home. When it was founded in 1864, The Union was published at the southwest corner of Mill and Main streets in Grass Valley. It moved down the road in 1906 to 151 Mill St., where the building still features “The Union,” even though the building houses Hedman Furniture.

Since 1978, The Union has been published from its current location in the Brunswick Basin.

George Boardman of The Union contributed to this story.

The Union expansion at a glance

– Will remodel The Union’s third home in its 140-year history

– Adds 3,686 square feet to the warehouse for mailroom space and storage

– Adds 1,630 square feet of office space

– Construction schedule: October 2004 to June 2005

– Exterior materials include natural stone and rusted corrugated metal siding and roofing

– Building size at completion: About 19,000 square feet

– Will provide better access for disabled visitors and employees

– Projected cost: $1.4 million

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