Windsor Star’s downtown move gives external face to internal culture change

By Marty Beneteau

Like its lone daily newspaper, Windsor is in a period of jarring transition. Reliance on the automotive industry placed the community in harm’s way years before the global economic crisis.

What emerged from the Detroit Three restructuring was a dramatically smaller local footprint — roughly half the workforce of 10 years prior — and a community scrambling to diversify its economy.

While we are sometimes unhappily compared to Flint, Michigan, in the United States, the community has embraced the themes of innovation and renewal. In doing so, it has pinned much of its hopes on a revitalised downtown anchored by an expanding university and forward-thinking businesses. 

With the sale of our office buildings and relocation to a state-of-the art facility in the heart of downtown, The Windsor Star took its place among the leaders in community renewal.

Our move from an historic building in desperate need of repair to a renovated movie theatre transformed us from owners to renters, becoming one of the first in Postmedia to do so. We downsized from 68,000 square feet to 25,000.

We re-invented our business culture by uniting 125 employees, formerly split among three floors, into one modern, edgy, open-concept office space that is wired for all digital eventualities. Employees were regularly consulted during the planning of our floor plan – which underwent more than 50 revisions – and an employee experience committee was formed to create a deeper engagement during our move.

The committee continues its work to this day, making cultural change a constant theme at The Star. 

While we trumpeted our future, we didn’t ignore our past, celebrating it with a selection of artifacts from the 1950s printing press and a gallery of news photos, editorial cartoons, and significant page fronts that grace our walls. 

We breathed new life into the movie theatre property, which was slated for closure, saving the downtown from yet another blighted intersection. In doing so we took our place at Windsor’s most prominent intersection, stamping our presence in the geographical — and psychological — heart of the community.

We also launched two new business initiatives:

  • LED outdoor digital signage: We installed twin 22-by-18-foot LED screens, developed in partnership with Dundas Square sign supplier Provincial Sign Systems. This introduced outdoor to our stable of digital platforms while creating yet another portal for our digital content.

    In doing so we tapped into a promising new revenue stream that has caught the attention of key downtown players. The accompanying ticker boards were funded through a C$90,000 municipal grant.

  • Postmedia’s first ever News Café: The café further leverages our unique position in the downtown. The café is a partnership with food-service provider The Green Bean Café.

    Already an institution on the University of Windsor’s main campus, the Bean brings with it a highly sought-after audience of post-secondary students, young professionals and digital devotees. This positions us well for the arrival of the satellite university campuses in 2015.

    The café will become a hub for the creation and capture of unique content for our digital portals, hosting everything from a live election night Webcast to a meet-and-greet with a professional wrestler. 

We have not been shy about sharing our story. Special editorial sections marked our departure from Ferry Street and arrival on Ouellette Avenue, and the move has been documented in numerous trade publications.

The occasion of our grand opening in May 201, was the coup de grace, allowing us to connect on a deeper level not only with key advertisers and community leaders, but also with our readers at large. 

A formal, “blue-carpet” celebration gathered hundreds of clients and dignitaries and saw our News Café converted to a dance club. The next day we welcomed more than 3,000 friends on public tours of both the new offices and our satellite production plant. 

What emerged from this project is a multi-media enterprise unlike any in Canada, the physical manifestation of an industry, company, and community in a state of perpetual evolution.

We have laid the groundwork for whatever the future brings; except that in Windsor, the future is now.

About Marty Beneteau

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