By: Jim Rosenberg

Building Designed To Withstand Hurricanes

Big and beautiful, sensitive and strong. Just what you’d look for
– in a newspaper headquarters?

By late summer, The St. Augustine (Fla.) Record
will be produced at a 66,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style
structure built to protect its employees and their children from
the danger of hurricanes. Supplying the project’s architectural
design and engineering services, the Austin Co. drew up plans and
“we added to it since then,” said Publisher Ronnie J. Hughes.
“It’s right at 66,000 square feet.” Expanded twice in its 95
years, the current downtown building can be enlarged no further.

The building under construction will occupy only half its 16-acre
site. News and advertising will share 25,000 square feet, another
25,000 will house production and packaging (8,000 square feet),
and the remaining 16,000 square feet will be given over to

Hughes, who said the building is on schedule for operation in
mid-September, put the total cost of plant and equipment at
approximately $11.5 million. The publisher said the size
suggested by the architect’s drawings is “pretty close” to what
the newspaper expects to move into. “It’s what we need. We’ve got
105 full-time employees,” he said, adding that their new
workplace is being built for more – a total of 145 full-time
workers within the next five years. “It’s a growing market.”

Those hundred-plus full timers and any part-time help make,
manage, and distribute 16,000 copies daily and 18,000 Sunday
– a seasonally varying high for the attractive winter
destination. (Exact circulation figures were unavailable for the
last Audit Bureau of Circulations FAS-FAX report.)

Recalling the Flagler era that saw Florida develop as a resort
destination, the Record’s new home is in keeping with the
architecture of the area,” said Will Quam, senior architect with
the Austin Co.’s Atlanta offices. “The biggest challenge,” said
Quam, was applying modern techniques to the old style.

Calling it “something in the Spanish mode,” Quam said the design
is “something we don’t ordinarily do.” But although most of his
firm’s work is modern in style and “newspapers are a fairly new
thing” for him, Quam has worked on other newspaper projects
– including some in other historic Southern cities: the
Mobile Register, Alabama’s oldest newspaper, and the
Savannah Morning News, a Morris Communications sister
paper in Georgia.

Like the design for the Register and Austin’s recent
project for The Miami Herald, the new Record
building will be built to survive a Category 3 hurricane’s nine-
to 12-foot storm surges and 111- to 130-mph winds. The move alone
should help. Whereas the current location at the edge of the
historic district sits only six feet above sea level, elevation
of the new, less crowded site about five miles away is 39 feet.

“Our windows will be able to withstand a two-by-four traveling at
100 miles per hour,” said Hughes. Beyond just keeping staffers on
the job and on the story, “our plans,” he said, “are for our
employees to bring their families to the newspaper in the event
of a storm.” Plans call for the building to be wired for easy
connection of portable generators, which Hughes said would
probably be capable of powering half the press.

But the Record won’t await storms to prove it’s family-
friendly. With what Hughes calls St. Johns County’s first such
commercial day-care center, his paper’s new quarters “will be
able to handle 15 children,” contracting with a local nonprofit
organization to provide the on-site service. Using the
newspaper’s data network and their own computer workstations,
workers will be able to access a live video feed from the day-
care center.

The hospitality extends beyond employees. Community groups will
be offered use of a multimedia conference room seating 70 and
holding up to 80. Adjacent will be a public refreshment area and
employee break room.

There even will be separate quarters for staffers from a sister
paper – even if the sibling creates some rivalry. “We’re
going to rent space,” Hughes said, to The Florida Times-
Union, Morris’ 173,867-circulation daily (238,265 Sunday) to
the north in Jacksonville, which covers and circulates in several
counties in northeastern Florida.

“They’re going to have their own entrance and offices,” for a
news bureau staffed by reporters and photographers and
circulation-distribution using their own carriers for local
subscribers, said Hughes. Besides rent, the Times-Union
will contribute a 16-into-1 GMA SLS-1000 inserter to replace the
Record’s 6-into-1 Muller Martini machine.

Feeding the mailroom will be a 10-unit Goss Urbanite press,
replacing the paper’s 12-unit Goss Suburban, the manufacturer’s
first offset model, developed in the 1950s and designed for
papers the size of the Record. Much admired and still
being made (it was introduced soon after the Suburban) the two-
around Urbanite will more than double press capacity for the
Record and improve its color.

In prepress, Hughes estimated his operation is now 65% paginated
and predicted it will be fully paginated for the move. “We will
not be taking our page camera to the new building,” he said.
Already paginating classified advertising with software from
Digital Technology International, the paper is soon to complete
the pagination picture with DTI software for the newsroom.

The process should be further aided by the adoption of digital
cameras. With one such camera now “that we’re learning to use,”
said Hughes, the paper will buy six more in June. In-camera
creation of digital-image files eliminates the scanning step
needed for full pagination.

Production and distribution seek to be as friendly to the
environment as the rest of the business is to family and
community. Evaporators will extract dissolved chemicals when
page-film processors are cleaned, permitting safe disposal of dry
solids rather than allowing them into the sanitary drainage
system. In the press operators’ washup area and at the loading
dock, connections to a unit that separates oil and grease from
water will send only water to the drain and divert oil and grease
to a holding tank for subsequent disposal.

So what’s not to like about a place that’s clean, modern,
spacious, and secure? Even in the newsroom, where there’s seldom
a shortage of complaining, the most that reporter Peter Guinta
could muster about the move was, “I’m a hundred yards away from
City Hall right now.” It is, after all, the heart of his beat.

But Guinta said he and others are ready to relocate. “This
building … is literally falling apart,” he remarked, citing
termites inside and crumbling bricks outside. “The carpet has
been nailed down so often, it’s like a metal floor,” he said.
Still, “it’s a comfortable place to work,” he added. “Everybody’s
close.” While a few may miss Mike’s, a nearby coffee shop, others
may miss snacking at their desks – something management
strongly discourages in the new offices.

Jim Rosenberg (
is a senior editor covering newspaper technology for E&P.

Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

Follow by Email
Visit Us

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *