Olympia School District in negotiations to purchase The Olympian building

The Olympia School District is in negotiations to purchase the nearly 53,000-square-foot building occupied by The Olympian, officials confirmed Monday.

The School District wants to move its central administration, now housed at the Knox Administrative Center with Avanti High School, to the building at 111 Bethel St. NE, Olympia. Avanti would remain at Knox.

“The district is just beginning these negotiations and still has a long way to go before the (School) Board would vote on finalizing the purchase,” spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said Monday. “If the purchase does come together, it will be a top priority to seek a smooth transition with the current tenants and ensure they have time to adjust and get settled in another location.”

A dollar amount was not released.

The Olympian has been headquartered on Bethel since 1972. The building was purchased a few years ago by the McClatchy Pension Fund.

“We weren’t seeking a buyer,” said Olympian executive editor Dusti Demarest. “But if it meets our needs, and the school district’s needs, it seems like a win-win.”

The two-story building, which once housed more than 200 workers, was expanded in the late 1990s.

“We were worried at that time that we’d have enough room for everyone,” Demarest recalled.

But with the contracting newspaper business and the purchase by McClatchy Corp. in 2006, which resulted in some of the paper’s operations being moved to Tacoma, the facility is now much too large for the current staff, Demarest said.

In 2012, a citizens committee recommended that the School District relocate its headquarters so that Avanti High School, which shares space with administrative offices in the Knox Building, can expand, Japhet said.

“Rather than build an expensive new administrative facility, the district is proposing to purchase The Olympian building and move its administrative functions into an already existing space,” she said. “This would give Avanti the space it needs to grow, make the best use of taxpayer funds, and provide a central location for district administrative functions, including teacher training spaces.”

If the sale goes through, The Olympian will move its staff to a different location, Demarest said. She noted that a return to downtown Olympia — where the paper has been located at least twice — is possible.

“Our plan is to be, if anything, more accessible,” Demarest said. “We’re a little bit out of the way up here on the hill.”