OAKLAND -- The city will soon be home to one of the nation's largest university publishing houses, bringing a noteworthy boost of academic prestige to the Lake Merritt area.

The UC Press, a longtime institution in Berkeley and publishing arm of the University of California system, has signed a long-term lease to join the Lake Merritt Tower on Grand Avenue. UC Press will leave its Berkeley home to continue its scholarly publishing operations from Oakland and also use the new space as a technology center to develop more digital products, said Alexandra Dahne, UC Press publicity director.

Founded in 1893, UC Press publishes about 240 books and journals each year from scholars, writers, artists and public intellectuals, many who are associated with the UC system. But with the rise of digital media, the press has turned its attention to more online publication and multimedia production.

Since the 1920s, it has been housed about a block from the UC campus on Berkeley Way in a three-story, 24,200-square-foot office building that the UC regents decided to put on the market for sale this week. The property will be sold through a sealed-bid process, a type of auction in which all bidders simultaneously submit sealed bids to the auctioneer, with the highest one usually winning. All bids are due by 5 p.m. March 4, and the minimum bid is $4.75 million.

Dahne said the press house had been looking for a new home for the last year and a half, and Oakland offered "the low commercial rates" that fit the nonprofit's budget. UC Press is mostly self-funded through the sale of books and philanthropic donations, except for "a small and shrinking percentage" from the UC.

UC Press is among the six largest university presses in the country and the only one located in the western U.S. and associated with a public university system.

Contact Heather Somerville at 510-208-6413. Follow her at Twitter.com/heathersomervil.