Dan Colgan broadcasts the first show from the new studios of NHPR.
Every station move or rebuild project is set into motion because of some fundamental need. Sometimes the equipment has fulfilled its useful lifespan. Sometimes a format change makes the facility inefficient. Sometimes simply more room is needed. For , it was all of the above.
In the spring 2001, NHPR had been in a facility that was only 10 years old. When it was built in 1991, the network was producing a classical music format, and the sit-down studios and analog routing served the needs adequately. But after a format change in 2001 to a news/talk format, it was quickly realized that the music-centric facility had severe limitations. It was just not going to meet the long-term business and programming needs.
The first step: Conduct a needs assessment study. NHPR worked with its board of directors to plan what was desired and how it would be funded. The realization that the North Main Street facility was not ready to serve NHPR's future needs was a primary point. The plans were set into motion for a facility upgrade.
NHPR now distributes programming to six full-power stations and six translators in the state. While all the transmitter facilities carry the same programming, the ability to distribute different material to different sites was a desired option. Likewise, as the stations adopt HD Radio, providing various multicast streams was a consideration. Flexible routing was also a checklist item.
Like any station, being off the air is an unacceptable circumstance, so multiple levels of redundancy were built into the plan. Finally, additional space was needed to accommodate the growth of the network.
A new building
Once the needs were determined, the process of finding a new location began. It didn't take long to find one. An office condominium on Pillsbury Street was looking for tenants. This was almost a new building in some ways, even though the previous owner — Blue Cross Blue Shield — had moved out in 1990. The building sat vacant for many years because of asbestos building materials within.
(Left to right) Bob Smith and Mark Bisbee, Technet; Dan Colgan, Scott McPherson and Michael Saffell, NHPR.
In 2003 and 2004 a developer worked with the city remove the asbestos and prepare the building for new tenants. NHPR then began raising money for its relocation project, and in spring 2006 purchased the sixth floor (top floor) of the building. But NHPR wasn't ready to begin building. It would be two more years before that would happen.
Plans were further refined while funds were being raised. In April 2008, NHPR issued a request for construction bids. By May, the bids were received and the station selected North Branch Construction. On June 2, 2008, the initial construction began.