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WFAE to create a center for community engagement in uptown Charlotte

WFAE uptown hub
A rendering of WFAE's uptown Charlotte location.

WFAE President & CEO Joe O’Connor announced Tuesday that the Charlotte-based NPR station will create a community hub in uptown Charlotte as the station recently signed a deal to relocate the majority of its University City operations to the current headquarters for Google Fiber in uptown’s First Ward Park. WFAE is expected to move into the 12,000 sq. ft. space, which is currently occupied by Google Fiber, this winter and intends to activate before spring 2023.

While the space will bring WFAE’s news and business operations to a more central location, the organization plans to use it to expand its civic and community engagement opportunities, says WFAE Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer Ju-Don Marshall.

“Over the last several years, we’ve created an exciting lineup of live programming, events, community conversations and training, and other initiatives that reflect the needs and interests of those who live in the Charlotte area. Having a space designed around these priorities gives us the ability to engage even more people,” Marshall said. “It also gives an opportunity to expand our existing partnerships with organizations such as the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Blumenthal Performing Arts, Charlotte Is Creative and the Queen City Podcast Network while also creating opportunities for others, especially smaller organizations and groups serving communities of color, to work with us.”

“Since Levine Properties recruited UNC Charlotte as an anchor, developed First Ward Park for the County and attracted Google Fiber as a tenant for the historic Philip Carey Building, our goal has always been to bring new energy and life to the First Ward,” said Daniel Levine, president of Levine Properties. “WFAE’s new center for community engagement continues to fulfill that mission and more to come with a First Ward hotel on the horizon.”

“We are so excited to welcome WFAE to uptown Charlotte’s First Ward,” said Michael J. Smith, president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners. “Our community’s North Tryon Vision Plan emphasizes knowledge, innovation, and civic engagement in this important district. Having WFAE in our urban core helps to advance that vision.”

"WFAE's new center is great news for our community," said Tom Gabbard, president and CEO of Blumenthal Arts. "We’re thankful for our shared commitment to bring the public together to learn and share. Their new center creates expanded opportunities to nurture understanding and respect at a critical time.”

“This is an extremely special ‘plug and play’ opportunity to expand our inclusivity and establish social capital,” said Richard Lancaster, chair of WFAE’s Board of Directors. “The work done to prepare the Carey Building for Google Fiber was exceptional. It provides WFAE a wonderful space for community engagement and expanding local news stories. This space will serve as a connection point for the Charlotte region and its many communities representing different races, cultures, income levels, as well as points of view to come together to learn, engage and be inspired.”

"I am delighted for WFAE to make this investment in uptown Charlotte. As a leading media platform and key source of news for the region, their launch of a community center is a long time coming," said Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles. "I look forward to seeing their calendar of community-driven events, training and educational seminars, which will provide a great service to our neighbors."

WFAE will launch a fundraising campaign to cover the moving costs and operational expenses at the site, but CEO O’Connor is confident that the space will be a revenue generator for the station.

“With live events, branding and potential rental opportunities at the Carey Building, alongside this dramatic opportunity to engage with everyone and bring new audiences to our multi-platform, essential public service, we believe that the incredible benefits not only to WFAE but the entire community will more than take care of any additional expense.”