KVMR gets a new home
The KVMR lobby will feature a donor wall, and there are 20 rooms still available for naming, ranging in price from $5,000 for an office, or $250,000 for the Community Room or backstage area. A donation of $1 million is asked to name the building.
Local community radio station KVMR 89.5 FM will officially “go on mic” at 4 p.m. today, in a new 8,000-square-foot building located just across the street from its previous home on the corner of Bridge and Spring streets in Nevada City’s historic downtown district.
“It’s amazing,” KVMR Development Director Cynthia Tweed said. “We now have the ability to have multiple studios, so we’re talking about having a whole second stream of things that may be happening on a 12-hour delay, so that you can hear what’s happening overnight or during times when people are unable to listen in … We’re really able to bring KVMR to a whole new platform, a whole new level.”
The road to the 36-year-old radio station’s new home took nearly eight years of planning and construction, costing the station around $4 million. The building was designed by local architect Jeff Gold and Associates, and general contractor Landmark Construction.
There were also 40 local subcontractors, suppliers and consultants involved in the construction of the building.
Known as the Bridge Street Project, the station’s new digs were a collaborative effort between KVMR and the Nevada Theatre Commission.
“The success of this project is a testament to the vision, dedication and courage of the volunteers,” Ron Spiller, president of the Nevada Theatre Commission, said. “We will look back on the challenges that had to be overcome with the satisfaction of accomplishment.”
Building from the ground up
Initial planning for the building began in 2007 as a project for the radio station to construct its own building, eliminating the need to pay for a rented space.
KVMR’s then-president Michael Young met with Nevada Theatre Commission’s then-president Paul Drake to discuss the possibility of a new building behind the theater. The two organizations came to an agreement in 2011 to collaborate on a building that would also back up and into the theater, giving the historic building added backstage space.
“Our motto for the project is, ‘Where the theater of the stage meets the theater of the mind,’” said Young. “In radio, you can’t see anything, and in the theater you can, so this is the bridge right here, the connective tissue that bridges the two worlds.”
The city asked that the new building resemble the reddish barns that it would replace, so Gold designed a four-level building that scales up the hill, digging into the slope. Gold sought to make the building’s exterior look vintage.
Equipped with a state-of-the-art security system, KVMR’s new building contains vertical studding and rubber gaskets built into the walls to make each room sound-proof. The facility’s main entrance also lines up with the street for disabled access.
The building’s first floor contains a multi-purpose community room that provides performance space for live broadcasts and will be made available for rent to the public. The room was used as the media lounge for last month’s Wild and Scenic Film Festival.
A reception area and a pair of production studios with newly donated digital equipment can also be found on the first floor.
The news and engineering sections of the building are on the second floor, and administrative offices are located on the third floor. The building provides for more spacious business offices, volunteer work areas and storage.
The theater’s backstage is located on the fourth level, giving staff, including KVMR News Director Paul Emery — who books local concerts — unique access.
“Most of my musical activities occur in the Nevada Theatre,” Emery said. “And now, very oddly, I can come out of my news room, into this elevator and go up to the backstage of the theater. That’s just pretty uncanny.”
According to Diane McIntire, the building owner’s representative and liaison with Landmark Construction, the new building gives KVMR more than twice the amount of space they previously had, and also offers various technological upgrades, including more video packages.
KVMR staff initially planned to move into the new building last fall, but various structural barriers became apparent throughout the process of prepping the building’s general design.
McIntire recalls workers even finding a buried fuel tank in one of the rooms that is now used as a broadcast room; a 600-gallon tank needed to be disposed of before any construction could begin.
“This was not an easy task. There were width, depth and height constraints that made installation of the building systems very challenging,” McIntire said. “But whenever we encountered an obstacle, everyone rallied together to find a good solution and move forward as quickly as possible.”
The project was previously slated for a $2 million budget, but ended up costing twice as much due to several factors that became apparent during the construction of the building.
Due to the location of the building, deep excavation into the foundation was required, making the installation of the foundation walls and drainage system difficult. Other challenges unique to the project included designing and constructing the building on a small, compact site.
When interfacing the new KVMR building to the back wall of the Nevada Theatre to create an expanded 1,600 square-foot backstage area, maintenance problems arose.
“The site is bounded by streets and buildings, so the foundation required special reinforcing with rods that extend underneath the streets and adjacent theater,” Gold said. “Early in the process, the back wall of the theater was exposed and found to be dry-rotted, so the wall had to be completely rebuilt.”
The dry rot was removed, and the back wall was rebuilt, extending the life of the already 150-year-old facility, California’s oldest theater.
“It’s one of those happy accidents that costs a lot of money but was really essential for the durability of the whole thing,” Nevada Theatre Manager Tom Taylor said. “So it’s all been a benefit.”
The additional backstage space will expand the theater’s adaptability for live stage performances, large-cast musicals, town forums and live broadcasts.
“This project is a shining example of community collaboration,” said Mary Ross, president of KVMR’s board of directors. “Contributions of countless hours of volunteer effort, and financial support from the community have brought us to this point.”
More than 500 people have donated to the building project, including local businesses like Grass Valley, a Belden brand, which donated more than $70,000 in furnishing materials and tech equipment.
Although some of the building costs will be paid by the station’s savings in rent, more than $2 million in construction loans still need to be paid off.
Tweed said KVMR will hold a public open house on March 14, to give community stakeholders an opportunity to view the building and donate to its costs.
“With this project we have changed the face of downtown Nevada City,” said Young. “Every time I go by the station, I glance up at the KVMR tower near the entrance and feel a sense of pride. It, and the people who helped build and pay for it, will be remembered for generations.”
For more information, go to http://www.kvmr.org.
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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