KMOJ-FM is moving again. But this time the community radio station may have found a permanent home back on the North Side.
Minneapolis’ Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) recently accepted an RFP from KMOJ-FM/Center for Communication and Development (CCD) and the Ackerberg Group to develop the former Delisi’s property at West Broadway and Penn avenues N.
Station manager Kelvin Quarles said the board of directors for KMOJ/CCD is working out details of its partnership with the Ackerberg Group, and that the deal is moving forward.
“This project on Broadway offers us an opportunity to expand and garner assets,” said Quarles, “and also gives us a chance to refocus. KMOJ is part of the Center for Communication and Development, which oversees KMOJ. When [CCD] was formed, it was formed with the mission to educate people of color in mass communicationâ€”radio, print and TV. The focus stayed on KMOJ for so long that it squashed the whole mission. We need to re-examine the mission of CCD, but you can’t launch new programs without adequate space.”
Stuart Ackerberg is the principal owner of the Ackerberg Group, a real estate development, investment and management firm. He said KMOJ/CCD would be the lead tenant in the Delisi’s redevelopment project. “We would enter into a partnership with KMOJ and CCD, and have them take the entire upstairs for their broadcasting, production and administrative offices. The first floor space would be leased to more traditional retailers. Our vision for the property is to completely reposition it, like we did with 1101 [West Broadway]. That’s the concept.”
Ackerberg has been working with Collaborative Design Group, an architectural and structural engineering firm. Plans call for the building to be completely gutted and repositioned. A small triangular parcel of land adjacent to the Delisi building is owned by the Metro Transit, so the Ackerberg Group and KMOJ/CCD are also negotiating to obtain that plot.
“Right now the building fronts on Broadway, and there’s really no openings at all on the west side,” said Ackerberg. “We think a better positioning on the site would be to have the building open onto the plaza on the west, so as you’re driving down Broadway from west to east you’ll be able to look right into the building. We’ll have a bunch of storefronts there and windows up above, and a dynamic plaza, which would be a nice gathering place.” He said in addition to retail tenants, he is also looking at arts-related organizations and restaurants.
Development costs are estimated at $2.25 to $2.5 million. Just how much comes from KMOJ/CCD has not been determined. “We’ve met with Kelvin and their board, and discussed a variety of ways in which the transaction could be structured,” Ackerberg said. “It really depends on what they want to accomplish, how active they can be and how much money they can raise. The intention is we’ll be partners in owning it. We’ll be in charge of running the real estate, they’ll office and operate out of that facility, and we’ll also have other tenants in addition to KMOJ.”
Ackerberg said he hopes to begin work this fall. “We’re doing pre-development work nowâ€”space planning and getting construction bidsâ€”and visiting with additional tenants. Once we control the property we can start our work, and I assume that will be this fall. We want to go as quickly as possible so we can have the building enclosed before winter, then do the work this winter and open up this time next year.”
KMOJ was forced to vacate its space at 555 Girard Ave. N. earlier this year because severe structural issues made the building unsafe for occupants. The station continued to broadcast from its transmitter site, without DJs or public affairs programmers, for several weeks until it found a temporary location at the Rainbow Building in Uptown. That building is also owned and operated by the Ackerberg Group. Quarles said it has always been the KMOJ’s intention to return to North Minneapolis, where it had been broadcasting since 1976.
“The plan is to bring more industry to the North side,” said Quarles. “The heart of KMOJ’s mission is to contribute to the betterment of the community. Knowledge is power, which is why KMOJ and CCD want to focus on other areas of mass communication. We can do more to push the perception of African Americans in this community, and we can do more to present African Americans in a positive light.”