NPR recently moved from Chinatown into its new 400,000 square-foot home on North Capitol, and they’re excited about it. Eager to show off the new facility, the organization offered a tour to members of the media Tuesday morning, starting with breakfast from their in-house chefs, along with some talking points from CEO Gary Knell, who outlined some impressive features of the space.
The goal in the new building was to have plenty of open space to promote collaboration, something that was difficult in the smaller, closed-office building NPR used to operate out of. The newsroom is a good example of this. Spreading 100,000 square feet over two floors, the entire room is open, with the second floor operating more like a balcony around the lower level.
The tour stopped by the office of Susan Stamberg, Morning Edition correspondent and long-time NPR-er, whose voice tells elevator riders which floor they’re on and which direction they’re going. She said she enjoys seeing people who work in different departments pass by her office, something that didn’t happen in the old building.
She added that easier studio access (there are more studios in the new space) has made a big difference.
“You used to get all backed up going to the studio, now you can’t get away from them,” Stamberg said. “We’re in Oz here, it’s so fabulous.”
The tour continued through the massive hub for public radio, and here are a few things we learned throughout the morning.
— Everyone at NPR just wants to be together.
— NPR developed its own digital content management system to organize and plan its shows.
— Style varies greatly, especially between departments.
— Everyone really loves the new building.
— NPR likes random decorations with their logo on them (like a gong or dog statue, complete with a bowl).
— Everyone thinks the new building is fantastic.
— The Science Desk started an underground candy bar market to combat the poor vending selection (more “unhealthy” options have been added, according to Chief People Officer Jeff Perkins).
— NPR raises beehives on the roof to help pollinate its green roofs.
— The building is expected to be LEED Gold certified.
— The almost 800-person staff is extremely diverse, and they all are really glad the be in the new building.
The tour continued through the wellness center, which is capable of simple medical procedures, the fitness center, which is staffed by a trainer, and the cafe, which utilizes the same catering company as Google. The cafe was named by a contest in which employees submitted more than 200 ideas. The winning name, Sound Bites, was entered by Stamberg, further marking her legacy at NPR and the new facility.
Overall, the impressive space was focused on integration of staff and utilization of digital media, which its old building was ill-equipped to do. The space is also open to public tours and events in its 2400 square-foot Studio One, which can seat up to 250 people.
We’re still not sure the tour wasn’t meant, maybe a little, to make other journalists jealous of the new space, but it definitely had that effect on at least us here at FBDC.
UPDATE: Contrary to reports spreading on Twitter, this story has never indicated that NPR’s building was paid for with taxpayer money—the story actually makes no mention of funding whatsoever. While it is true that NPR and its affiliates, like many tax-exempt non-profit organizations, do receive government grants, such money—according to NPR’s audited financial statements— is a relatively small part of organization’s budget. Construction of the new building was funded through a combination of proceeds from the sale of the old building, tax-exempt bonds (a kind of bond available to all non-profits in capital campaigns) and private gifts and donations. The District of Columbia, in an effort to keep NPR in the city, has agreed to a 20-year property tax exemption that will amount to about $40 million. The building cost approximately $201 million and has been in the works for the last six years.