KOSU radio is officially on the air on Film Row — just another sign that the one-time “skid row” is quickly emerging as Oklahoma City's latest hot spot for the creative class.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis and Mayor Mick Cornett were among the dignitaries gathered Friday morning to mark the opening of the new KOSU studios in the Hart Building, 720 W Sheridan Ave.
KOSU is an award-winning National Public Radio station that has broadcast news and entertainment programming from the OSU campus in Stillwater for about 60 years.
“Hearing KOSU live from historic Film Row is the culmination of more than two years of planning, construction and audio engineering,” Hargis said to about 200 people gathered in the two-story lobby of the Hart Building. “The expansion of KOSU into downtown Oklahoma City serves a dual role as an academic extension of the broadcast programs on the OSU campus and as a public service outreach for the university and the arts community in Oklahoma.”
The $400,000, 4,000-square-foot facility features performance and production studios and an expanded and collaborative newsroom that will double the station's capacity to produce local news and music and serve as a hub for content collaborations with the state's other public media organizations.
New satellite receivers and other technology will allow KOSU to upload and download NPR data and audio interviews faster and with greater clarity.
Kelly Burley, KOSU director, noted the station's new home allows his staff to connect more intimately with its listeners at a time when public donations are increasingly important to maintaining its operation. Much of the new station was funded through donations, including $150,000 from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and $75,000 from the Kirkpatrick Family Foundation.
The newly restored Hart Building also is home to the offices of Claims Management Resources and Advanced Subrogation Resources, Credit Collections Inc., Ferrell Oil, deadCenter Film Festival and Chopt coffee and sandwich shop.
“KOSU is now positioned as an anchor institution for Film Row,” Burley said.
In its mid-20th century heyday, the 700 block of W Sheridan Avenue was one of 35 film distribution centers across the country, home to branches of Paramount, RKO, 20th Century Fox and other studios.
Until the past several years, the block was better known as “skid row,” a blighted stretch on the west fringe of downtown. Developer Chip Fudge bought up several of the Art Deco buildings, launched renovations and worked with the city to start a streetscape. The area is now home to an art gallery, coffee shops, screening room, pizzeria and offices.
About 500 people now work along the two-block stretch of W Sheridan, and construction is set for a two-story office building for a law firm, a tower on the Stage Center property, and a three-story school already under construction will all directly link Film Row to the Central Business District.
Fudge said the opening of KOSU brings the 40,000-square-foot Hart Building to full occupancy. Expansion and renovation of an adjoining building to the east, known as the “sliver building,” is set to become home of Butzer-Gardener Design.
With the district now hosting monthly “Premiere” art walk festivals, the latest being held Friday night, Fudge is extending his investment. He is about to start renovations on a building he recently bought west of the Hart building, and is looking to acquire more nearby properties.