NPR station KNKX unveils new home

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KNKX FM 88.5, the region’s National Public Radio affiliate, is now broadcasting from its new studio at 930 Broadway. This culminates the station’s transformation that began in 2016 from being KPLU and based on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland to its new name and new home in the heart of downtown Tacoma, where station management hopes the more accessible location will allow for more interaction with listeners as well as events that are open to the public.

“KNKX’s new home is ideally located in the heart of the city,” said KNKX President and General Manager Joey Kohn. “The process to determine a new station location, design, build and raise the funds to make it all possible started three years ago, after KNKX was saved by the community. Our listeners’ kindness, generosity and belief make this next step in the story of our independence a reality.”

Designed by V Three Studios of St. Louis, the station occupies 7,625 square feet in the historic C.N. Gardner Building. Floor to ceiling windows allow in much natural light, as well as an opportunity to passersby to view the happenings within. The design features a combination of the building’s 1906 architecture of red brick and Greek columns, while allowing for the state-of-the-art technical needs of a modern station.

Erik Hanberg, the station’s marketing and communications director, said KNKX signed a long-term lease on the building. Office space was still being set up during a media briefing earlier this week. Hanberg said staff currently based in Seattle will begin relocating next week. It will have a total of 26 employees.

He discussed plans for public use of a small area in the front of the space, which could include live jazz or lectures. Likely partners would include neighbors with a cultural or educational mission, such as Seabury Middle School, Tacoma School of the Arts and Tacoma Arts Live. The city of Tacoma has discussed awarding a grant of $42,000 to the station to fund such programming. “We want to be more open to the public, as we are in the heart of where things happen,” Hanberg remarked.

KNKX will celebrate its new home with a free event on Sept. 7 along Broadway. It will begin with a live taping of the program “Sound Off.” In keeping with the station’s jazz format, Johnaye Kendrick Quartet will perform a set at 11 a.m. Opening remarks will be delivered by Cohn, South Sound reporter Will James, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and State Representative Jake Fey. Connie McCloud, cultural director with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, will offer a special blessing. Kareem Kandi Band will perform at 1 p.m., followed by a set from Bill Ramsay Quartet at 2 p.m. Students from Tacoma School of the Arts will perform in front of the studio. Tours of the station will be offered, while a beer garden will offer libations, Corina Bakery will have free cupcakes and several food trucks will sell their fare. Raffle tickets will be sold for an array of prizes, including concert packages from Tacoma Arts Live and a nine-course dinner at The Herb Farm.

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