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WPFW-FM has to be out of its home on April 30. Wait, scratch that. It can stay in its office at 2390 Champlain St. NW through June 30. No, hold on, that’s not right. WPFW must be out of its home on May 25.
In fact, the “jazz and justice” community radio station’s move-out date is no longer up for dispute. Yesterday, in D.C. landlord and tenant court, Judge Michael L. Rankin made WPFW’s eviction official. The station has one month left in its building in Adams Morgan (which is also where Washington City Paper is located for a few more weeks).
You could forgive the station’s stakeholders for being confused up until this point. Earlier this spring, General Manager John Hughes told members of WPFW’s Local Station Board that he’d been instructed by the nonprofit’s parent, the Pacifica Foundation, to leave the building by April 30. Amid controversy over Hughes’ intended destination for the station—-studio and office space in Silver Spring that WPFW would sublease from a subsidiary of radio behemoth Clear Channel—-a consultant for Pacifica told WPFW supporters last week that officials “are working to extend the deadline with the current landloards for 60 days to give us enough time to gracefully exist the building.” In a statement at a community meeting last week, the consultant, Michelle Price, also said that the station had selected a temporary space to move into after leaving Champlain Street and that it was working with Mayor Vince Gray‘s office and others to locate a long-term space. As for the controversial Silver Spring move: “As you hear this, the national office is working to get out of this deal,” Price’s statement reads. “Your concerns have been heard and addressed.”
In a phone interview last week, Price confirmed that Pacifica was close to inking an agreement with the landlord to keep WPFW on Champlain Street through June, but no later than that.
When I called landlord Thomas Yoder—-who is also Washington City Paper‘s landlord and former owner—-last Friday, he had no idea what I was talking about.
“I haven’t heard any word of this,” Yoder said. “None. Zip.” He mused that perhaps Pacifica had been talking with the buyers of the building, led by developer Brian Friedman, who have applied to raze the structure.
Nevertheless, Yoder has been working under the assumption that he needs to sell an empty building to Friedman and his partner in the venture, Andrew Zobler. “If [WPFW was] talking with the buyer or something, I would have to get an agreement from the buyer that I don’t have to deliver an empty building anymore, which would be fine with me. That would make me happy if there wasn’t this pressure. [WPFW has] been a good tenant. I like them.”
After our interview Friday, Price referred me to Pacifica’s interim executive director, Summer Reese, who hasn’t returned multiple calls, emails, and text messages. Friedman also hasn’t returned multiple requests for an interview.
But yesterday, the WPFW Facebook account seemed sure the station could stay in Adams Morgan until June 30. “As members of the #WPFW family we must let you know that we are transitioning,” the message read. “We are required to leave our current facility. We have been extended some extra time. We now have to vacate the City Paper Building by June 30th.” The message asked for help raising $75,000 to “maintain our operations during this transitional period,” which includes transmitter and storage costs.
That post went up at 9:52 a.m. yesterday—-when Reese had already been in landlord and tenant court for 52 minutes. Yoder’s company, Glancer Properties LLC, sued for eviction in March, and both Yoder and Reese have told me that WPFW has paid rent late this year. The judge ruled in favor of the eviction, but granted the station a one-month stay.
By this afternoon, WPFW’s Facebook account was on the same page as the court. “CORRECTION DUE TO NEW INFO: There is a new vacate date,” it read. “As of now it is May 25th. Updates will be forthcoming.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery