Magazine article Editor & Publisher

South of Savannah, Another for Morris

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

South of Savannah, Another for Morris

Article excerpt

Austin Co. designs the newest building in the nation's oldest city

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 storage. 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 (E&P, April 4, Dec. 11, 2000).

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. …

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