Apr 24, 2023 - Business

WWOZ leaving its French Market broadcast studio

The WWOZ station has broadcast from the French Market since Hurricane Katrina. Photo: Claire Bangser/AFP via Getty Images

WWOZ is on a deadline to leave its longtime French Quarter broadcast studio and looking to buy its own headquarters, eyeing a St. Charles Avenue building in the Central Business District.

Why it matters: There are few New Orleans institutions as well known and well loved as WWOZ.

What's happening: The station's new home looks to be a prime location at 717 St. Charles Avenue, according to a letter obtained by Axios and prepared by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, which owns the radio station.

  • The document was prepared in advance of an April 20 neighborhood meeting to discuss a zoning change that would allow for the building's use as a broadcast studio.
  • In the letter, neighbors are told WWOZ would utilize nearby paid parking lots and soundproof the first-floor studio. Offices and meeting rooms would occupy the top two floors.
  • In another letter obtained by Axios and addressed to station show hosts, WWOZ general manager Beth Arroyo Utterback says the Jazz & Heritage Foundation has entered a purchase agreement for the St. Charles Avenue property.
  • The property is listed at over $2.3 million. Zillow notes the building is under contract.

What they're saying: David Francis, the president of the board for the Jazz & Heritage Foundation, tells Axios the moment is "an exciting opportunity for WWOZ" as it searches for "a new, permanent home."

  • Francis declined to comment on any specific property the station is reviewing.
  • In her letter, Utterback notes that "there is no certainty that the purchase will be concluded," citing the need for the zoning change and a due diligence inspection.
In the background, Robert Glasper performs with his band onstage. In the foreground, sound board controls are lit up in a dark venue.
The Robert Glasper Experience performs on stage at the WWOZ Piano Night on April 27, 2015 at the House of Blues. Photo: Leon Morris/Redferns via Getty Images

Catch up quick: The French Market Corporation informed WWOZ of the need to leave the French Market, where the station has been leasing space since Hurricane Katrina, early last fall when it became clear the French Market building needed extensive renovations.

  • Restoration efforts were in the works when the pandemic forced a pause, French Market Corporation marketing and development director Jeremy Smith tells Axios. Hurricane Ida damage prompted the discovery of additional issues.
  • WWOZ likely has until about August to leave the building, Smith says, but a formal notice hasn't yet been drawn up.

Among the options the Jazz & Heritage Foundation previously considered was Perseverance Hall in Armstrong Park, according to Jackie Harris, the founder and executive director of the Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong Jazz Camp, and an organizer with the Treme's Save Our Soul Coalition.

  • WWOZ already has history in the park, once housing the station's studio that became known as the Treehouse.
  • Harris tells Axios that after the foundation board reached out to her, the coalition wrote a letter in March in support of the move, pending approval from Treme residents, Harris says.
  • "It's a community radio station, and the Treme community is probably one of the most culturally rich … neighborhoods not just in New Orleans but in the nation," Harris says.

Of note: Next steps for the zoning change and a timeline for the sale completion were not immediately clear.


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