News & Observer Moving to Studio Loft Apartment

nando bldg

The current home of the N&O, a Karl Marx School of Design building from the 1960s.

By CRAIG MILLAR                                             APR. 29, 2015

RALEIGH—The News & Observer is exploring a sale of its headquarters at 215 S. McDowell St. in downtown Raleigh. The N&O confirms it has been exploring a sale of its roughly 3.5-acre campus in downtown Raleigh in order to move to an efficiency apartment on Ashe Avenue near the train tracks that run behind Central Prison.

While publisher Orage Quarles III wouldn’t be specific about conversations he’s had with potential buyers, he did say Monday that a sale has been talked about for “several months” and that he had pre-signed a lease for himself and the 17 remaining N&O employees with Becton Properties LLC.

ashe avenue apts

The new HQ of News & Observer Worldwide LLC.

“I’m not trying to brag, but I got us a pretty sweet deal,” said Quarles. “I signed Becton’s longest-term lease [eighteen months] and got a five percent reduction. So for around $470 a month, we’re getting a studio loft with dedicated laundry, security surveillance, on-site professional management, free parking, and we’re walking distance from Pullen Park.” He paused. “We were paying stupid high taxes downtown so we could get parking tickets and occasionally mugged. What were we thinking?”

A Becton LLC spokesman confirmed this, adding that the N&O would get a further one percent reduction in rent every six months there were no police calls to the apartment.

Economics came into play in the decision to move, confirmed executive editor John Drescher. “I mean, c’mon,” said Drescher. “We’re all working in an $8 million building downtown and we’re down to a few dozen subscribers, most of whom just want the Sunday coupons.”

Other employees, for their part, did not seem as enthused as the publisher or as convinced by the economic realities.

“Seriously, I could be writing for the Times,” moaned food writer Andrea Weigl. “I’ve gotten offers from every major paper on the East Coast, but I’ve stuck it out here. We’re so short-staffed I’m putting the comics page together. And for what? How am I supposed to test-kitchen anything on a crappy four-burner electric?”

Columnist Barry Saunders was equally nonplussed. “Where can a brother get decent soul food around here?” he groused. “And Sweet Thang, she’s not visiting me in this joint. It’s got no style. Here’s a poem I wrote about Ashe Avenue, to the tune of some random country song by Hank Williams Sr.: Oh, Ashe Avenue/Why you gotta leave me blue…”

As Saunders rambled on, political reporter Rob Christensen had set up shop in a shower stall and was writing a column blaming Gov. McCrory for the economic downturn in the newspaper business. Meanwhile, features writer Josh Shaffer was seen on the apartment roof, blogging about a two-legged dog he had repeatedly seen chasing a locomotive.

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