By Erik Maza, The Baltimore Sun
5:21 PM EDT, March 27, 2012
WTMD-FM, Towson University's radio station, is moving to downtown Towson. The change, talked about last fall, was formalized Tuesday when university officials signed a lease for an 8,000-square-foot space at Towson City Center, general manager Stephen Yasko said.
The station's new home is a result of WTMD's growth since it changed formats a decade ago, and the university's own drive to carve out a niche in the downtown corridor. Along with the station, four centers belonging to the College of Health Professions signed leases at the mixed-use complex in January.
Found at 89.7-FM on the dial and at Towson's media center on campus, WTMD, one of Baltimore's four public radio stations, operates out of a fairly typical college radio station that's about 1,800 square feet in size. With its new quarters, Yasko said, the station expects to be able to create new programming, enhance existing shows and produce more specials and music documentaries.
"It's going to allow us to increase the quantity and quality of original programming that we do," Yasko said.
It might also gain a new source of revenue. The centerpiece of the venue is a 1,300-square-foot performance space the station will use to host regular concerts.
"We envision this space as a community arts facility," Yasko said.
But bands will also be able to use it to rehearse and even record music, for a fee. And neighbors will be able to rent it for community meetings as well as private events. Yasko said it's not yet been determined how much it will cost to rent the performance space; he promised "as low a cost as possible." The new space includes an on-air studio and two production studios.
Construction at the new site, where Towson's An Die Musik was located, is expected to end this coming fall, Yasko said. The station will also move its transmitter to the new location, which will allow it to increase its signal beyond Montgomery County and western Howard County, where it currently peters out. It's not clear yet exactly how much wider the signal will become.
The station, which in 2002 changed its format from light jazz to adult acoustic alternative, becoming a platform to many local bands, has grown exponentially in the last decade, from 60,000 to to 115,000 a week, Yasko said.
Its budget has also increased from $200,000 to $1 million, Yasko said. Seventy-five percent of that comes from members — over 4,300, according to the most recent fund-raising drive — and corporate underwriting. The rest comes from Towson University and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The station is the fifth tenant from Towson University to join City Center, located at the former Investment Building on York Road. In January, the College of Health Professions signed a lease to open its Institute for Well-Being, which consists of four individual clinics, including facilities dedicated to occupational therapy and adults with autism.
The university did not provide details on the cost of the move for the station or the clinics. Mark Behm, an interim vice president, was unavailable for comment.
Carol Dunsworth, a spokeswoman for the university, said the healthcare centers and the station are moving because space at the school is limited. It will also bring the clinics to a more convenient location for their clients, Dunsworth said.
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