The Charlotte Observer has signed a sublease for three floors of new office space at the NASCAR Plaza office tower and will relocate from its current home at South Tryon and Stonewall streets.
The move will cover a distance of less than half a mile, but it represents a major shift for the Observer. The company has been at its current location since 1927, and the current building, a concrete-and-glass structure that takes up most of a city block, opened in 1971.
The new offices will be more modern and reflect the newspaper’s transition from a traditional print model to a digitally focused multimedia company, Observer Publisher Ann Caulkins said.
“We’re in a time when we have to be collaborative, nimble, creative and fast,” she said. “For me, the space needed to reflect that.”
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The Observer staff will need to complete its relocation by the end of April, Caulkins said, though an exact move-in date hasn’t been set. Development company Lincoln Harris is under contract to buy the Observer’s 9.4-acre property in a deal that’s set to close by May 2. Lincoln Harris hasn’t revealed its plans for the site.
The NASCAR Plaza space was freed up when Chiquita Brands International recently vacated six floors of the building. Chiquita moved its international headquarters after being acquired by two Brazilian firms.
In November, workers removed the banana company’s iconic logo from the top of the 20-story tower. The building is owned by Parkway Properties and is attached to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The Observer will occupy floors 10, 11 and 12. The company is subleasing the space, which totals about 68,500 square feet, from Chiquita’s owners. Terms of the lease were not disclosed.
The Observer has been looking for new office space for more than a year. In 2014 it relocated its printing operations, which formerly took up the ground floor, basement and warehouse at the current building at 600 South Tryon Street. The company bought a new press facility in the University City area from the Dow Jones publishing company for $5 million.
The Observer’s parent company, California-based McClatchy, transferred ownership of the uptown property to its pension fund in 2011, as part of a deal to cover a $50 million payment obligation.
Other newspapers, such as The Washington Post, The Miami Herald and The Philadelphia Inquirer, have sold their buildings in recent years and moved to more modern offices. In November, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reached a deal to sell its downtown headquarters to a developer.
The Observer’s move comes amid a development boom on the south side of uptown, particularly along Stonewall Street from Bank of America Stadium east to the I-277 loop:
▪ Crescent Communities broke ground earlier this month on a development across from the NASCAR Plaza building on Stonewall Street that will include a Whole Foods, two hotels and 450 apartments.
▪ Crescent is also planning to build an office tower, hotel and restaurants at the site of a former Goodyear auto service center at Stonewall and Tryon streets.
▪ At 615 S. College Street, next to the Westin hotel, Portman Holdings is building a 19-story office tower.
▪ Proffitt Dixon is finishing the Presley, a 230-unit apartment building at Stonewall and McDowell streets, and the company is planning to build more apartments on the site of the Actor’s Theatre.
▪ Apartment development company Northwood Ravin is set to close next week on its purchase of land at Stonewall Street and South Boulevard from the city for $14.2 million.