For the first time in its 52-year history, Austin’s classical music radio station KMFA 89.5 will have its own permanent home.
The non-profit radio station has purchased land adjacent to the Rebekah Baines Johnson Center (RBJ Center) as part of a 17.8-acre yet-to-be-named, mixed-use development just east of IH-35 on the north shore of Lady Bird Lake, at 21 Waller Street.
The planned 18,000-square-foot building will triple the size of the current KMFA studios in an office building on Lamar Blvd. Most importantly, the building will have new purpose-built amenities including performance and recording spaces and areas for special events.
“KMFA is evolving as Austin evolves. We are committed to meeting the demand for more live and local programming, robust onsite production and community events,” said Ann Hume Wilson, KMFA’s president and general manager. “These new headquarters will allow KMFA to share the joy of classical media in new ways for generations to come.”
Wilson said that contracts for the purchase were signed June 25. Groundbreaking is slated for July.
Once complete in late 2020, the new building is projected annually to host 10,000 people at a variety of station events. KMFA will also offer the 140-seat studio for local arts organizations’ use, helping to fill the void in performance spaces for intimate concerts and recitals, master classes, audition recordings and other programs.
KMFA has long operated with a small studio unsuited for the kind of live recordings now popular with public radio stations. Organization leaders considered various scenarios in recent years. But after an anonymous donor came forward with a $3 million donation, KMFA 89.5 leaders decided to pursue building a facility of its own.
The freestanding KMFA building will be a centerpiece of the new development, on land that was once the site of a federal fish hatchery. The RBJ Center, which provides affordable housing for seniors, will be updated and integrated into the overall master plan that also calls for retail, offices, and market rate rentals.
Architects for the project include STG Design for the interior and Sixthriver Architects for the exterior. In addition to practical features such as production booths for creating on-air content and expanded offices, the purpose-built two-story structure will have a 3,000-square-foot, acoustically dynamic live music studio for broadcasts, recordings, intimate concerts and lectures. Outside, a ground-level patio will have live audio so the public can enjoy the sounds of KMFA.
A second-story terrace garden will be dedicated to the memory of the anonymous donor who bequeathed a $3 million gift that initiated the building project.
All of the public spaces will be available to rent for corporate and social events, a move that will provide an important new income stream for KMFA 89.5.
Established in 1967, KMFA 89.5 is an independent public classical radio station unaffiliated with any university or other organization.
KMFA 89.5 is a media partner of Sightlines. Join us at our next New Music Mixer, July 18.