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WFCR to make move to downtown Springfield in 2014

Date: 1/23/2012

Jan. 23, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — Although it already has studios in the city, New England Public Radio (WFCR and WNNZ) is planning to move most of its remaining operations to the first floor of 1537 Main St. sometime in 2014.

Martin Miller, the CEO and general manager of the National Public Radio affiliate, explained to Reminder Publications “a 65 year-old former dorm is not adequate for 21st century broadcasting.”

WFCR has been operating out of Hampshire House at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) campus since its creation in 1961.

Miller said that, as part of the UMass/Springfield partnership agreement in which the university develops closer ties with the city, the station was approached about expanding into Springfield in December 2009. It started planning a capital campaign to fund the move to the city through the WFCR Foundation. The campaign is in its “quiet phase,” Miller added.

The station has shared space at WGBY on Hampden Street since 2009 when it opened The Peggy and David Starr Broadcast Center and Miller said the expansion to Main Street would not affect that suite of broadcast studios.

The new space will consist of 16,000 square feet on the first floor and part of the basement, Miller said. He expects to close on the property in May and it will be a condominium arrangement with The Dennis Group, the owners of the building.

Once the closing is completed, an architect for the renovation will be selected from three finalists already chosen, he added. Miller is hoping that construction could start this year with the new facility open sometime in early to mid-2014.

There will still be a studio at UMass, he said, although smaller.

All of the studios will be connected, Miller added.

“Springfield puts us physically in the middle of our listening area,” Miller said. The signals of WFCR, WNNZ on the AM dial, and its repeater stations in the Berkshires reach southern Vermont, Worcester County, the Albany, N.Y., region and greater Hartford, Conn.

Miller said the new facility will allow the production of a locally originated daily talk show over WNNZ, which carries news and talk programming heard during the day when WFCR is broadcasting classical music.

He wants to produce the talk show with a live audience and have it travel around the region.

In the wake of commercial radio cutting back on local shows, Miller noted WFCR has been increasing its commitment to local radio with the addition of “Morning Edition Extra” and “Focus on New England.”

In the future, Miller said the station is also planning to produce programs by area youth and to feature local spoken word and music.

“Listeners don’t think about where the station is, but what’s on the air,” he said.

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