Cincinnati Public Radio's WVXU-FM and WGUC-FM are looking for new studios in anticipation of the eventual demolition of the Crosley Telecommunications Center.
"Our building has been the target for razing for most likely parking, with a portion of it for mixed use," says Richard Eiswerth, Cincinnati Public Radio president, CEO and general manager.
Cincinnati Public Radio rents space in the two-story Crosley building owned by public television station WCET-TV at Central Parkway and Ezzard Charles Drive, across from Music Hall.
Eiswerth learned that the city – which he says owns the land under the WCET-TV building – could redevelop the property when the city last year tore down the pedestrian bridge over Central Parkway connecting Music Hall with the city-owned Town Center Garage at the Crosley Telecommuncations Center.
"It was indeed wise for us to start looking for a home elsewhere," Eiswerth says.
One of the sites under consideration for new Cincinnati Public Radio offices and studios is a parking lot at the corner of Ninth and Plum Streets, immediately north of City Hall. It is also sought by Milhaus, an Indianapolis mixed-use developer, which wants to build about 110 market-rate apartments above first-floor retail and a parking garage.
The city has been trying to redevelop that site since fall of 2016, and has been working with Milhaus at that location since January, says Phil Denning, interim city community and economic development director.
Denning says his staff learned about Cincinnati Public Radio's interest in May, when "we were pretty far down the evaluation pipeline with Milhaus." City planners tried to "marry these two uses," or merge the two projects, but couldn't due to "a variety of reasons," he says.
Denning describes Milhaus as the preferred developer for the lot. Mayor John Cranley supports the Milhaus plan, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. Milhaus could start construction next spring.
Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld backs the Cincinnati Public Radio proposal, noting that it does not require a public subsidy or incentives.
In a May 16 letter to Denning, Sittenfield expressed his support for the Cincinnati Public Radio's proposal: "I believe there is a higher purpose at stake here: My personal belief that Cincinnati Public Radio plays a vital role in supporting an informed community and fostering a thoughtful citizenry…. Securing a home for Cincinnati Public Radio to continue its operations and programming for generations to come is of enormous value to the broader community."
Cincinnati Public Radio board members also have been meeting with city council members about acquiring the site, Eiswerth says.
"We have said all along that Ninth and Plum would be an ideal location for us," Eiswerth says. The artist rendering by emersionDESIGN for the radio stations proposes a public plaza at the southeast corner, opposite City Hall. The northern boundary of the property is Richmond Street; across the street to the north are the Cincinnati Fire Museum and the Lloyd Library and Museum.
Development of the lot could be discussed by the Cincinnati Planning Commission later this month, Denning says. Then it goes to a city council committee, and a full council vote, this summer. Sittenfeld predicted council would vote in August.
As for the future of the Crosley Telecommunications Center, Denning said there weren't "any formal proposals to change that block in the near future." But with parking needs for Music Hall, new Over-the-Rhine residences and the new FCC soccer stadium two blocks north, "it's a great opportunity for the future."
The future for WCET-TV, the nation's first licensed public television station, is not known. David Fogarty, the Public Media Connect president and CEO over WCET-TV and Dayton's WPTD-TV, is on vacation this week and unavailable for comment.
The Crosley building has housed Channel 48 since it was built in 1976. It was named for Powel Crosley Jr., the industrialist, entrepreneur and broadcasting pioneer who started WLW-AM in 1922, and established the city's first TV station, WLWT-TV, in 1948.
Editor's note: John Kiesewetter's reporting is independent. The content has not been edited by Cincinnati Public Radio.