WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, will leave its studios on the campus of Antioch College after the lease ends in 2023 for a historic schoolhouse close to the center of town.
Dave Chappelle, a Yellow Springs resident and WYSO supporter, bought the Union School House last year. After hearing that the station was looking to relocate, he offered to renovate the building according to WYSO’s specifications and to lease space to the station.
“This move into a new building and the relationship with Dave is not just a facilities solution for us,” GM Luke Dennis said. He emphasized the building’s location, off a main village road where cars and pedestrians might notice it more than they do in its current spot on campus.
“We see it as an important part of our audience-building efforts,” he said.
The new building will include community gathering spaces with room for up to 120 people, where Dennis said the station hopes to host live studio performances and to continue the audio production training WYSO offers for community members. Additionally, the performance space provides options for digital engagement opportunities, such as a YouTube channel.
“We’ve always wanted to have a really great camera-ready setup where we can video the bands that play live on WYSO and have more digital offerings around our music programming,” Dennis said.
WYSO began looking into relocation options after acquiring its license from Antioch and becoming independently operated in 2019. The station has been in its current office since 2012. The building has a leaky roof and lacks spaces large enough for performances or events.
The current building also does not have enough room to accommodate WYSO’s growth. The station has tripled its reporting staff over the past 18 months and plans to continue expanding.
WYSO looked into building its own studio in Yellow Springs but decided the project would be prohibitively expensive. Given the recent transition to independent ownership and the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, station leaders decided it was not a good time to launch a major capital campaign, Dennis said in an email. Lease options in Yellow Springs were scarce, and the station briefly considered looking at places outside the village.
That’s when Chappelle called and said he wanted to help guarantee the station would remain in the village, Dennis said. Chappelle offered to renovate his newly acquired historic building to meet WYSO’s needs and to work with the station to negotiate a long-term lease agreement.
Dennis said that if not for Chappelle’s offer, the station would likely have remained in its current building for another few years to reassess its fundraising capacity. Antioch hopes to eventually sell the building, which could have left WYSO with few options for staying in Yellow Springs.
“The fact that we get to remain in the village for sure — everybody is celebrating,” Dennis said. “It’s a small town, but a huge percentage of people who live here listen and are members.”
The building project, funded by Chappelle’s company, Iron Table Holdings, and designed by architect and former Yellow Springs resident Max Crome, will include a full remodel of the existing building, a 10,000–square-foot addition and a 150-foot radio tower. WYSO will occupy the basement and first floor, while the second floor will house professional offices for Iron Table Holdings.
“We hope that the publicity we’re getting out of this will lead more people to listen to WYSO and that there will be creative synergies with Dave,” Dennis said. “Really talented, interesting people are coming to Yellow Springs all the time to interact with Dave … It’s an added benefit of being in his orbit that we might get to interview people or [that] musicians who come to town to work with Dave might do a workshop for our high school youth radio students.”