McClatchy joins Google, YouTube with video lab in renovated Sacramento train station

Sacramento-based McClatchy, parent of The Fresno Bee, announced Thursday it is joining with Google and YouTube to launch a video test lab in Sacramento’s newly renovated downtown train station.

The incubator-style project, called Video Lab West, will host entrepreneurs working in groups to explore ways of using cutting-edge technologies, including virtual and augmented reality, to improve video storytelling.

McClatchy is the first business tenant to announce that it’s moving into the city’s historic depot, which was built in 1926. The Renaissance Revival structure at Fourth and I streets has its grand reopening Thursday after $36 million in renovations funded by federal, state and local transportation grants that restored much of its former shine, including a mural celebrating the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

Sacramento city leaders aim to attract technology-focused tenants to the depot, which sits on the edge of Sacramento’s old railyard, where an army of workers once built coaches and locomotives. The railyard is expected to someday house thousands of new residents, office workers and shops.

City project manager Greg Taylor said the work has turned the once dilapidated and marginally usable old brick building into a modern structure, adding 25,000 square feet of office, restaurant and retail space to the mix. The building has a rooftop terrace area with panoramic views of downtown to the south and the emerging railyard development area to the north.

When it launches this summer, McClatchy’s video venture will occupy 10,000 square feet in the depot building’s second story. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the airy space overlook I Street to the south, the REA building to the east, and, to the north, the train platforms and the old shops of the railyard.

“This investment in video represents the digital future we’re racing toward,” Craig Forman, president and CEO of McClatchy, said in a statement. “We believe in high-quality storytelling at our core and embracing new business models for modern media companies.”

“We are excited about expanding our operations to the West Coast – and specifically to a city buzzing with new creativity and entrepreneurship,” said Andrew Pergam, McClatchy vice president of video and new ventures.

Pergam declined to say how much McClatchy and its collaborators would invest in startup costs at the site, or how many jobs the video lab would create. He said the effort is important to the company as McClatchy attempts to take a leadership role in the fast-changing world of news and storytelling.

Project leaders say they will offer co-working spaces that invite collaboration, as well as bring in speakers, hold workshops and social events to foster idea-sharing. Many of the people working there may be part of rotating project teams, some from McClatchy, some from outside the news company, he said. Others may do research as part of fellowship programs.

The McClatchy partnership with Google News Lab and YouTube is an expansion of collaborations among the three companies on other business fronts. The location at the depot provides easy train access to the Bay Area, where Google and YouTube are headquartered, McClatchy officials said.

McClatchy publishes 30 daily papers, including The Bee. Video Lab West is an expansion of The Video Lab, McClatchy’s Washington, D.C.-based effort to coordinate and improve video production at its local news outlets.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak