The New Orleans Advocate has opened a prominent new office on St. Charles Avenue, creating a more visible downtown presence for the city's only seven-day, home-delivered newspaper.
The building, located at 840 St. Charles Ave., will house about 50 New Orleans-based journalists and advertising sales staff, as well as offices for the owners and publisher.
"Thanks to the overwhelming support of the community, The New Orleans Advocate is on its way to becoming the dominant source of print and online news in New Orleans,” said John Georges, who with his wife Dathel, purchased The Advocate in 2013 and dramatically expanded its New Orleans operations. “We are very proud to restore a historic building to its splendor and make it a vibrant community center in the heart of downtown.”
The building opened in 1949 as the showroom of Klein Motors, which sold Kaiser-Frazer automobiles, a startup that was the first to sell new cars to consumers after World War II. After Kaiser-Frazer ceased production, the building served as a showroom for other auto dealers and was later transformed into Michaul's, a Cajun dance hall.
With its metal façade and use of glass and spare decoration, the building was one of New Orleans’ early examples of mid-century modern architecture. It was among the early works of Nathaniel Curtis and Arthur Q. Davis, who went on to design some of the city's modernist landmarks, including the Superdome, the Rivergate and the New Orleans Public Library.
The Advocate’s renovation stripped the building to its beams, then painstakingly restored the original look. In addition to the Advocate offices, the 20,000-square foot building has a large assembly and event space, as well as a second-floor suite with additional entertainment space and a recessed balcony for Mardi Gras parade-watching. The lobby, once the car dealer showroom, is connected to the second floor by a new feature, a 20-foot high spiral staircase that overlooks the lobby and the newsroom.
A coffee shop is also planned, which will connect with the building's lobby, with the aim of creating a community gathering place. The Advocate plans to have a series of events around Mardi Gras, using custom-built reviewing stands.
Since its beginning in 2012, when The Times-Picayune abandoned daily publication, The Advocate has been housed in four rented spaces in the Central Business District, having to move every year because of rapid staff growth.
“We are home now and will serve New Orleans in print and online for a generation,” said Dan Shea, the paper’s publisher. “While the building is a visible landmark, what made The Advocate strong is the commitment to traditional, in-depth coverage of the New Orleans area.”
The general contractor was Palmisano Group, and the architectural plans were developed by Tore Wallin and John Dalton. Jeanne Barousse, a noted interior designer, is responsible for the finishes and interior look.
“We wanted to restore the building to its mid-century era and also give the newsroom some of the character of a traditional newsroom, with low partitions and opportunity for total collaboration among departments,” said Dathel Georges. “It was also important to us to build an attractive space that welcomes visitors in hopes that our spaces will be used for meetings and events.”
A giant mural of historic New Orleans photos and newspaper pages will fill an entire wall of the newsroom. Another mural in the entrance space will surround the visitor with the live oaks of City Park.
The St. Charles Avenue office is the second major construction project for The Advocate in a year. In January 2016, The Advocate opened a new Baton Rouge headquarters near the intersection of Interstate 10 and Siegen Lane.