PITTSFIELD — Working in a 20th-century newsroom housed in a 19th-century building was no longer practical for The Berkshire Eagle in 2022.
With its lease at the Clock Tower Business Center set to expire in March, management at The Eagle decided to give the area where most of the newspaper’s staff are located a completely modern facelift.
The result is an updated newsroom suitable for the 21st century that is located in the same space as the old one, which The Eagle has occupied since moving to the Clock Tower building in 1990.
“The goal was to give it a fresh, light and airy feel,” said designer Zack Sosne of Bramble Homea design firm in Great Barrington.
On Thursday, more than 200 people came to The Eagle to attend an open house designed to give the public a first look at the new space.
“I think they’re fantastic,” Judy Storie of Pittsfield said of the renovations. Storie knew the old newsroom, having worked in The Eagle’s copy desk for 39 years before retiring in 2008.
“Everything is so open,” she said.
The project, which took around a year from conception to completion, is the first complete renovation of The Eagle’s newsroom since the newspaper moved to the Clock Tower building from the former Eagle building on Eagle Street. , and the first major change since the late 1990s when the Press Room was remodeled to move the publicity department down from the second floor of the building.
Gone are the vertical rows of metal cubicles that served as offices; the large, bulky filing cabinets that held all kinds of paper files and an assortment of bric-a-brac; and the worn carpet that had covered the floor since The Eagle moved in 32 years ago.
In their place are spacious workspaces for journalists, editors and publicity representatives, a new conference room called “The Shed” – so named for its bespoke barn doors – a small break, new office spaces, custom woodwork, plants and polished concrete floors.
The old stained carpet was hard to remove in some places. “We had to use commercial strippers,” said contractor Eric Taylor of Restorations Inc. in Hinsdale. The concrete had been located under the carpet and had been polished by construction crews.
“The carpet, obviously, was there for 30 years,” said Berkshire Eagle president and publisher Fredric D. Rutberg. “It was way beyond funky. Someone suggested polished concrete floors. It was suggested as a design element, and everyone said it would look great.
The idea to renovate the Newsroom coincided with the expiration of The Eagle’s lease with North Adams’ Clock Tower Partners LLC, owner of the Clock Tower Business Center.
“Given everything that’s happened in the world with offices, we don’t need all the storage space we had before,” Rutberg said. “We don’t have miles and miles of files, all of these things that are now stored electronically have been stored physically.”
“We realized we could give the office space back and then take that money and reinvest it in the facelift that hadn’t been done in years,” said Rutberg, who declined to say how much the project cost.
“We think, and I think accurately, that if we’re going to be a 21st century newspaper, we have to be like one,” Rutberg said, “to make today’s newsroom something more functionally conducive to the way people work today.
“That was really the driving force,” he said. “We have set up social spaces to allow people to move around a little more.”
Sixteen local businesses worked on the project, and their work contributed to some of the unique features of the newsroom, Rutberg said. Work includes custom woodworking by New England Creations of Great Barrington and custom metal archways by Whitco in Adams.
“We couldn’t have done it without a number of local contractors that we used and some of the unique elements that we added,” said Gary Lavariere, Chief Revenue Officer of The Eagle.
“We are really proud to have been able to do this for our employees, to be able to bring them a much more modern and updated space.”
Sosne, whose younger brother, Ben, is the executive director of the Berkshire Innovation Center, is a graduate of the New York School of Interior Design. Sosne worked in New York from 2005 to 2018 before returning to his native Great Barrington and opening his own business with his wife, Alison. The renovation of The Eagle’s newsroom is his first major business project.
“The Eagle has been in poor condition for a long time, so we wanted to clean it up and then make it an open and airy environment,” he said. “We wanted to work with the elements that we had. One of the main things was getting rid of the old carpet and seeing what we could do with the concrete floor. The big part of that was polishing the concrete.
Changing the workstations from a vertical layout to a horizontal layout worked best with the space there.
“One of the big obstacles there is that the columns are everywhere,” Sosne said. “Cabins are kind of out of the picture now. We just did a lot of research on how other companies do their layouts. Plus, we were able to do it within our budget.”
All of these new features were on display at the open house on Thursday, and they all received high praise from those in attendance.
“It’s very updated and modern, I would say,” said Lisa Turner, from Pittsfield. “I thought it was impressive.
“When I walked in, I said, ‘Whoa! said Ron Kujawski, garden columnist for The Eagle, who was looking at the updated space for the first time.
Pittsfield’s Jack O’Brien, who worked in Eagle’s newsroom for 40 years before retiring in 1995, said he got “lost” wandering around the new space. He liked the new Eagle press, which had been installed last winter.
“I’m impressed by the press, no pun intended,” he said.
He also liked the new press room.
“It’s awesome,” said O’Brien, who turns 86 this month. “Everyone seems to have their own little niche.”