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JPR to build studio complex

JPR to build studio complex

Public radio station has outgrown its current location in the basement of a classroom building

ASHLAND ' Southern Oregon University's Jefferson Public Radio has received a green light to build a &

36;10 million studio complex and broadcast museum. Now all they need is the money.

Paul Westhelle, JPR's associate director since 1990, said the station has long since outgrown its current rooms in the basement of SOU's Central Hall.

I think the station has done an awful lot with a very modest and limited studio location, Westhelle said, later adding, In 2003, it's very clear we've grown out of our current space.

The Oregon State Board of Higher Education on Friday approved SOU's request for a seven-year lease with the non-profit JPR Foundation for the purpose of building new studios on 2.6 acres at Walker Avenue and Highway 66.

— Westhelle said SOU will lease the parcel to the JPR Foundation for &

36;1 per year for the next seven years ' the time deemed necessary for the foundation to raise funds and complete the project. The JPR Foundation will then donate the building to the university.

The expanded facility will have 15,000 square feet for new studios, administrative offices for both JPR and the JPR Foundation and another 35,000 square feet for an interpretive museum dedicated to the history of broadcasting in the West. It will be called the Western States Museum of Broadcasting.

The museum would be a relatively unique facility in the western states, Westhelle said. It would be dedicated to stations that have been important to the evolution of broadcasting west of the Rockies.

Established in 1969 as a 10-watt student-run station, JPR has since grown to operate 19 stations with 34 translators to become the largest public radio station in the nation. It also has three separate programming streams going out each day ' the standard is one.

The existing 10,000-square-foot studio includes former classrooms adapted as radio studios ' some of which also serve as hallways to other studios, Westhelle said.

It will provide a facility that allows us to do radio in a much more efficient way, which will translate to better service for the community, Westhelle said.

More space may allow for political debates, panel discussions and other public services that are not an option in the present location. The project coincides with radio's transition from analog to digital technology.

JPR officials said it will be six months to a year before architectural design and programming assessments are complete. Fund-raising ' expected to encompass a combination of broadcasting industry resources and other private resources ' will commence in the next year. The new building is scheduled for completion sometime during the 2005-07 biennium.

Amber Fossen is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 482-3456.