Journalism
7:19 am
Mon June 3, 2013

Miami Herald Opens New Doral Headquarters, Cow Fields And Loft-Style Decor Included

Before the Miami Herald, WLRN's news partner, moved to Doral on May 20, there was a lot said about how the paper gave up an icon, a building on the bay in the heart of downtown.

But there’s an upside. The 150,000-square-foot building is sharp and modern, and, when it’s finished, it will be an impressive display of old media might.

If you think newspapers are dying, you should see this place. Most everyone occupies the second floor, with advertising on the east and the newsroom on the west. Gone are the old building’s drop ceilings, in favor of a loft-style open rafter system. Long rows of lights provide runway-like stripes of white above the cubicles. With six stories compressed into two, the new office is busy, a bustling hub of the news.

The ratty carpets that had worn through to the floor under 1 Herald Plaza cubicles have been replaced with a sea of gray, with bright blue and green stripes. The depressing 1HP newsroom break room has given way to stations with Keurig coffee machines and a lounge with chairs and a couch.

It’s not a Taj Mahal of news. It doesn’t have that stunning view of Biscayne Bay. But 3511 NW 91st Ave. (snappy nickname still to come) is a proud statement that the Herald isn’t going anywhere, that the paper intends to be a powerful media force in this town, even if it’s from Doral.

Credit Photos by Eric Barton

The entrance to the 15-acre property includes a fence, an unmanned guard gate, and an unused puncture strip. Welcoming it’s not, but if the paper ever needs to boost security, it’s set.

The newsroom is an expansive space, with the paper’s sections grouped in bunches of cubicles. Most editors seem to have large cubicle setups with extra chairs rather than offices. While the old newsroom seemed like a sea of empty desks on some days, this space is bustling, with seemingly every desk accounted for.

The Continuous News Desk, like in the old newsroom, sits in the center of the action. The design seems more like what Hollywood imagines newsrooms look like, with a row of desks and cubicles facing inward. Three conference tables sit in front. In the old newsroom, the editors met for what were called “stand-up” meetings — there weren’t enough chairs around the CND. Now everybody can have a chair.

The rows of lights give the room a vanishing-horizon effect, as if it’s hard to see the end of the place. Above is the WLRN portion of the newsroom, just south of the CND.

It’s hard to find a spot in the building where work is completed. Plywood hangs on partially finished walls. The TV and radio studios are yet to be built. Conference rooms need chairs or tables or both.

The Gene Miller Conference Room in the old building was one of the Herald’s crowning jewels. Small staff meetings featured a view of dolphins jumping in the bay, and staffers tell stories about watching funnel clouds form during boring meetings. Now, it has a view of the west parking lot, so it seems most meetings occur instead at the CND tables.

In between the newsroom and advertising sits a series of rooms and hallways that — even though the place is a rectangle — can be difficult to navigate. So each hallway has been given famous Miami street names, with directional markers posted on the intersections.

Rooms also carry names of Miami neighborhoods. Most have not been completed, like the South Beach Training Room and Overtown Room, above.

It’s hard to spot it here, but the view from the newsroom lounge is a cow field across 33rd Street.

In the old building, advertising boasted an impressive two-story room that opened to a bay deck, while the newsroom had drop ceilings and bleak lighting. Now advertising’s space is similar to the newsroom, an open room largely ringed with offices.

It wasn’t easy giving up the Herald cafeteria, with its homey meals and cafe con leche for a buck. But now there’s a quick cafe with pre-made salads and sandwiches and — new to the Herald — a fully-stocked workout room.

There’s no view of the bay, but there is the endless Doral sky, as seen from the building’s roof.

Eric Barton is a contributing editor at WLRN-Miami Herald News. This post was reposted with permission from his blog, Barefoot Mailman. You can reach him here