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A woman walks past the soon-to-be new Oakland Tribune office at Broadway and 20th Street in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, June 7, 2012. Beginning this weekend, the Tribune office is moving out of its current location on Oakport Street, across form the O.co Coliseum and the Oracle Arena. (Ray Chavez/Staff)

When I began writing a metro column for the Tribune in 2007, the newspaper had just decamped from the historic Tribune tower to a building in the industrial park across from Oracle Arena.

We had breathtaking, panoramic views from our ninth-floor offices. I could see the marquee at O.co Coliseum from my desk -- which came in handy for finding out who was coming in concert.

Yet it was the journalistic equivalent of Siberia. A news story would occasionally break on our doorstep -- most notably the shootings of the four Oakland police officers in 2009 and the massacre at Oikos University in April.

But reporters had to get in their cars and drive across town to most assignments. (With the exception of the never-ending procession of shootings in deep East Oakland.)

Unless you went downstairs to the building cafeteria, you had to walk 20 minutes to get lunch.

On Monday, I'm happy to say, the Tribune moved its offices back downtown. Our new home is at 1970 Broadway -- across from Sears in Oakland's bustling Uptown district.

This is great news for the newspaper and for the community.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with the Oakport area, which is near where city officials have dreams of locating the Coliseum City entertainment complex.

It's just that a metropolitan daily belongs in the thick of things -- in proximity to the major institutions that reporters are supposed to be covering. The newspaper should be a highly visible presence in the community, not somewhere out in the hinterlands.

Members of the public should have access to reporters and editors when they have story tips and ideas for news coverage.

The new Tribune office will host a media lab where people in the community can take classes and chat with reporters. "This won't just be a newsroom, it will be a gathering point," said Martin Reynolds, the Tribune's senior editor for community engagement. "A place where people can learn skills and meet the people who are covering their communities."

City officials, business leaders and others welcomed the Tribune's return downtown as a positive sign that the newspaper is engaged in Oakland.

City auditor Courtney Ruby, the watchdog over Oakland's public finances, called the Oakland Tribune "critical" to monitoring city government.

"We need them front and center, questioning, just like this office does, what city officials are doing," Ruby said.

Now that the Tribune is just blocks from City Hall, public officials should feel more intense scrutiny from the newspaper -- which will hopefully lead to greater government transparency.

Paul Junge, vice president of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said he's excited about the Tribune's return to "the heart and center of the city."

"A lot of the big events and decision-making that happen in Oakland happen in its downtown area," Junge said. "This creates more of an opportunity for people to reach out to the Tribune."

Our move back downtown sends a very different message from the announcement in August 2011 that the Bay Area News Group would drop Oakland from the newspaper's name as part of a "rebranding" strategy.

Many of our readers in Oakland viewed the then-proposed consolidation of mastheads and name change to "East Bay Tribune" as a sign that the Tribune was abandoning Oakland.

Fortunately, the newspaper management rethought that decision after readers expressed quite vocally that they did not want their hometown newspaper merged into one generic title.

The Tribune and the newspaper industry in general continue to face financial challenges as advertising dollars migrate to the Internet. In more cost-cutting, management has stopped Monday home delivery. We've had more layoffs.

Yet despite our dwindling numbers, the dedicated staff of editors and reporters couldn't be more passionate about Oakland and engaged in what is going on in our city.

Now that the Tribune offices are closer to the center of things, it will be a lot easier for us to do our jobs.

And goodness knows, no shortage of good eats within walking distance.

Tammerlin Drummond's columns run Tuesday and Sunday. Contact her at tdrummond@bayarenewsgroup.com or follow her at Twitter.com/Tammerlin.