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THE TRIBUNE'S *REAL* VIEW: From newspaper publisher to student apartment developer

The Next Big Site


COLUMBIA, 5/23/16 (Oop Ed) -- So the Odle boys waltzed into my office the other day like it was one of their Brookside or Brookwhatever student apartments.

I was a little put out -- they blew past my admin assistant without so much as an, "Is Mr. Waters in?"
  
But when they got to the point, I saw before me a handsome trio -- Father, Son 1, and Son 2 Odle -- that made my butterfly wings all a-flutter.

"Hank," Father Odle said.  "We wanna build more student apartments.   It's the business model of the decade, and you're sitting on The Next Big Site."

Business model of the decade?  

"Like Apple," he said.  "Or Facebook.   Tear down Shakespeare's, build student apartments.   Tear down Quinton's, build student apartments.   Tear down block of cool, old houses.  Build student apartments.  Everyone wants in!" 

I'd been wondering when these boys would get around to my family plot this side of town.  I'd spent considerable political capital getting Garagezilla built just up the street.  Based on recent parking requirements , I figure it should support about 2,000 student beds.   

"What about Mayor Treece's six month 'administrative delay'?" I asked.   "No more student apartments 'til December." 

"Got that covered," Son 2 said.   "We won't be building *student apartments*.  You'll be *expanding* your newspaper."

The asterisks are where Son 2 used his fingers to make quotation marks -- " " -- which told me the Odle boys were up to some Hanky Panky. 

"So I'm *expanding* the newspaper?" I said.   "You're not tearing down the Trib?" 

"Heavens no!  It's the perfect cover," Father Odle replied.   "You'll apply for a permit to build 10 stories of *office* space atop this building and that big printing press across the street.   Office space for your *enlarged editorial team*.  More *reporters*.   Your new *investigative journalism division*."

Lots of virtual quotation marks flying around. 

"Nobody's gonna believe a print newspaper is tripling its size!"   My boy Andy, eavesdropping in the hallway.   "What the hell is going on?" 

"The rubes around here will buy anything," Odle Son 1 said.   "Six months and lots of nighttime construction is all we need.  Then...." 

"Then:  Trib Brook.   Fifteen hundred student beds atop the finest journalistic establishment this side of the Mississippi." 
 
"Trib Brook?" Andy smirked.   

"Think of it as Shakespeare's without the pizza," Father Odle said.   "Newsroom on the first floor; luxury student living overhead.   Mixed commercial/residential:  Just what The District ordered." 

"We're even inking a deal with the J-school to offer night classes -- right here!"  Son 2 said. 

"Dad -- OMG!" Andy yelped.   "This has got to be one of the stupidest...." 

"Jimmy!!"  I called for my trusted managing editor.   If anyone could tell if this was a good idea, he could.   "Jimmy -- you know the Odle boys."

"Yeah," he said.  "Don't tell me...."

"You got it," Andy said sarcastically.   "Garagezilla across the street.   Police Department two blocks away.   Trops another block away.   What more could a student apartment developer ask for?"
 
"That all sounds great," Father Odle said.  "But I'm confused.  Why is Garagezilla important?"

"For parking.  Duh!"  My skeptical boy, again. 

"But we aren't planning any parking," Son 1 said. 

"Why not?  It's right here."

"...unless our renters want to sleep next to their cars."  Father Odle gazed wistfully out the window at said giant parking garage.   We looked at it, too. 

"Don't tell me," Jimmy said again. 

"Ain't she a beauty?" Father Odle said.  "High-durability concrete floors.  All-brick facade with that eye-catching mix of blonde and red.   Open concept.  Retail on the ground floor.   Rooftop pool deck just waiting to happen." 

"And don't forget the most important thing of all!" Son 2 piped up.   "Police Department RIGHT across the street."  

Feeling the competition, I signed the deal.   Our editorial board wasn't too happy and Andy damned near quit.   Until, that is, I found the silver lining. 

"Look on the bright side," I said.    "We'll have a lifetime supply of student interns." 

-- H. Jay Dubya, III


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