Case Study

News & Observer

Downtown Raleigh, N.C.


  • Architecture
  • Interior Design
  • Finish Selections
  • Space Planning
  • Construction Administration
  • Fixtures & Equipment Coordination

News & Observer

The News and Observer has been the source for regional news in the capital city of North Carolina for over 150 years. The N&O, as it has long been known, has now successfully transitioned from a traditional newspaper operation into a digitally oriented 24/7 media company. iS design was engaged to design their facility relocation which evolved into completely refining their working environment and, as a result, their work style.

SQ FT: 33,845
LOCATION: Downtown Raleigh, N.C.
CATEGORY: Workplace Projects
News & Observer

About the Project

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The News & Observer has been serving the latest news to our area since the Civil War era and has been housed at its facility on the Martin Street block in downtown Raleigh since 1956.  In 1995, McClatchy Newspapers of Sacramento, California purchased The News and Observer Publishing Company.  In 2018, McClatchy sold the Martin street building to The Acquisition Group, a California Investment firm that also owns Two Hannover Square in downtown Raleigh.  As part of the purchase, the Acquisition Group was charged to relocate the News & Observer operations from that location.  In preparation for the move, the printing press had been dismantled and a new facility was constructed in Garner to house the printing operations.

Due to the nature of the mid-century facility that they had previously occupied, the office environment was more closed off and the employees were separated from each other.  Part of the challenge put forth to iS design was to create an open and collaborative space for employees that better reflected the newspaper’s role in the community today, which would require a change in work style as well as environment.

The Acquisition Group hired iS design to prepare a schematic design for approx. 33,850 rentable square feet at One City Plaza.  The design needed to work within their budget and timeframe, while ensuring that the The News & Observer’s ideal needs would be met.  Once all parties agreed on the design and budget, the clock began and iS design worked diligently on completing the needed Permit / Construction Documents and Select Finish Materials in a compressed time frame.  iS design was supported by an excellent team: MEP/FA Engineering by BNK Consulting Engineers and Construction by Inner-Tech.  Both brokerage companies, Capital Associates and Highwoods Properties, were also instrumental in the success of the project and kept the project moving forward.  It was truly our pleasure and honor to have been the designer for this amazing transformation of work style and space.


“Business Drivers for the Project
The world has changed significantly in the past decade requiring that media companies work differently, be more nimble and collaborative and get closer to our community. We needed space that could be a partner in our success in this new era. We also needed space that projected who we are today for the community, for our employees and for recruiting new talent. With the help of iS design and Alfred Williams & Company we have that.
The space had to open us up to the community. I wanted to show The News & Observer as we are today, a digitally forward, mission-driven, always-on media company. For that I needed street-level space with views into who we are.
Space that worked for a multi-generational work force.
Space that promoted collaboration among and between departments. I needed space where good ideas could flourish quickly.
A healthy workplace with light and energy.
Focus on our digital workstyle

Unique Attributes
The Front Page is the name of the space on the first floor that is right at the windows on Fayetteville Street. The floor is a defining feature, with LVT created from images of front pages through the years. It’s colorful and literally grounds us in our history. The playful serpentine couch that winds across that floor further defines the space as a place for everyone, a casual space to relax and work, engage, take a break. At any time in the day, you'll see people working in various parts of this room, on the couch, in the coved chairs, at the high tops. When you see that room from the outside, you see a very different environment. You immediately know that this is not the newspaper, it's a media company. The lobby tells our story. The First Amendment is on the wall and the room tells you that, while we are steeped in our mission to serve , we are new and bold. It's a defining space with colorful, modern seating areas, smart and stylish lighting. It is the first message you get about the News & Observer as you enter, so it's important to get that right. Editors’ space in the newsroom: The editors, who must work with reporters and photographers, as well as each other, are in the middle of the newsroom with desks that are distinctive. When you enter the room, you know that this is command central. Editors can communicate easily with each other and can see across the room. Collaboration space on the 14th floor as you enter our Sales & Marketing operations: First you see Einstein on the wall with this quote "Creativity is intelligence at play." Then you enter through the red doors to our red-couched cove of lounge/collaboration space and pass through that to a creativity space with white boards, including an electronic white board, and couches that allow our teams to collaborate on creative marketing solutions for our clients. It tells our staff and our advertisers that we value creativity and collaboration. We are not a newspaper ad sales team; we are something much more. We have screens everywhere and they show how our stories are reaching the audience, which ones are most important to them, and how many people are looking at them. They show our work and our competitors work. They also allow anyone to plug in at any time and share what they are working on. We have collaboration spaces, huddle spaces, hoteling space, lounging space, coved chairs, high-top tables as well as sit-to-stand desks. We have noise suppression technology and we have "phone booth" space. Our new space offers every employee the opportunity to work in the way they feel most comfortable at any point in the day. That’s important to attract new talent. It's important for collaboration. It’s important for a healthy work environment. As move-in day came, I was concerned that our staff, who have been housed in a 1950s building with no light and the last design update in the '80s, would not adapt to the new space. I was concerned that they would try to force the new space into their old ways of working. That didn’t happen. I saw people using the collaboration spaces. I saw people plugging in from the couch in The Front Page. I saw people standing at their desks. And I saw people from the 14th floor on the first floor and vice versa. The space has very few offices, but plenty of conference rooms of various sizes, including a training room, a boardroom, and spaces with seating for a dozen down to single person. All the spaces are in use all the time. It is a testament not just to great design but to the process that ended with great design. Our teams, iS design and Alfred Williams & Company, understood the work that needed to be done and designed environments that supported it. The space tells the story of who we are today and what we expect of our employees. We expect them to be collaborative, nimble, digitally savvy, and comfortable.“

Sara Glines, Publisher

The News & Observer