WAMU 88.5’s airwaves will have a new place to call home as soon as early 2013.
AU signed a contract to purchase a new building for the station at 4401 Connecticut Ave. NW last week.
The station is currently located at 4000 Brandywine St. NW in Tenleytown, its headquarters since 1993 when the station had only 60 full- and part-time employees and a budget of $4.1 million.
“The station has experienced tremendous growth – 400-500 percent in the past 19 years – and a major thing holding us back over the last couple of years has been the limitations of our current space, which we’ve outgrown,” WAMU’s General Manager Caryn G. Mathes said in an email.
The noncommercial news and information station hosts NPR’s nationally syndicated “The Diane Rehm Show,” carries multiple frequencies including 88.5-1 WAMU’s Bluegrass Country music programming and holds a local connection with award-winning programming like “Metro Connection” and “The Kojo Nnamdi Show.”
AU Chief of Staff David Taylor said the search for a new space has been in the works for a while.
“This opportunity has been a long time coming,” he said.
He adds the new building is “attractive” and gives WAMU 88.5 the “space to grow into on a major thoroughfare into Washington.”
“The new building is a great find,” Taylor said.
Mathes said the new Connecticut Ave property and increased space offer the station opportunities to expand its programming and production on the air and on the Web in order to become a “world-class” radio station.
In the past, WAMU had to turn down opportunities for national programming due to tight space in the Brandywine building.
“Now that limitation has been removed, and we can consider future opportunities purely on the merits, rather than through the prism of logistical constraints of our workspace,” Mathes said.
WAMU will also occupy space on the building’s first floor, allowing for street-level visibility.
“One of the features being planned for the new home is a ‘street peek’ into the newsroom to allow passers-by to see our reporters at work,” Taylor said.
The first floor also opens up potential for live Bluegrass Country concerts and new ways to broadcast popular programs such as “The Diane Rehm Show” or “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” to the community, according to Mathes.
“The possibilities are exciting,” Mathes said.
She and Taylor said they anticipate the new possibilities can only benefit the station and University.
“When WAMU is successful, American University is successful,” Taylor said. “WAMU will be able to achieve even more in their new home, and AU will benefit from that.”
Despite moving farther from AU, Mathes said the station’s connection to the University is “unbreakable” and will not be affected by the move.
AU holds the license for the radio station.
“We rely on our student workforce in just about every department of the station to augment our operations and provide valuable support,” Mathes said.
Mathes also said the management and administration departments often work together, and the station collaborates with AU’s schools and institutions, emphasizing the AU-WAMU connection.
The station celebrated its 50th anniversary last fall and has been broadcasting since 1961.