From a classroom at John Adams Middle School to the basement of the Cayton Student Center at Santa Monica College, Santa Monica’s own public radio station KCRW  (89.9 FM; can finally say it will no longer be, quite literally, an underground radio station.

I started at KCRW as a volunteer in 1983 and retired as a staff member at the end of 2011. When I first walked through the door at JAMS, I saw a shabby converted classroom with broken chairs, old phone lines, shared desks and a rickety broadcast studio that people had to tiptoe through while hosts were on the air. Chains and padlocks were the only security for the vinyl record shelves; it wasn’t unusual to hear them fall to the floor, clanking loudly on air as the next scheduled DJ was selecting his or her albums.

One thing that never broke was our spirit. KCRW was on the move and growing rapidly, filled with passionate programmers and a wildly supportive audience. We moved from JAMS to SMC in 1984, first taking over half the basement then the whole basement, converting classrooms into offices for an ever-expanding staff, and constructing new studios as needed to accommodate the production of such nationally distributed and highly reputed programs as “To the Point with Warren Olney,” “Left, Right and Center,” and remarkable radio drama productions with all-star casts.

The basement has long been far too small for this now internationally recognized station and Internet star, with employees scattered across three separate buildings. No one who visited could believe this was KCRW’s home; while it sounded like it came from a gleaming tower, it was a dank windowless basement infused with life by the people dedicated to creating its sound and its presence.

Now KCRW will be moving into its first-ever standalone building, anticipating occupation at the end of 2016. Last week’s on-air capital campaign, “Above and Beyond” introduced the idea that this state-of-the-art, 35,000 square foot, three-story LEED Silver certified green building will become not just a radio station, but a media center and a community asset. The $420,000 donated by listeners nearly doubled the $250,000 matching fund challenge offered by the Annenberg Foundation.

Annenberg’s total $5 million contribution gives them naming rights for the stunning live performance studio, which will offer a viewing deck to watch music performances during the station’s signature music program “Morning Becomes Eclectic.”

Other “recognition opportunities” in the five- to six-figure dollar range include naming news and culture broadcast studios, the digital lab, audio, video and music production and editing studios, the new “DJ Lounge” and music library, the performance viewing gallery, the artists’ entrance, bricks in the exterior courtyard, steps on the interior staircases and more.

But anyone who contributes at any level will have their name inscribed on a wall inside the station honoring their donation.

The new KCRW shares the site formerly known as SMC’s Academy of Entertainment and Technology, which is being renamed the Center for Media and Design. In addition to sharing a courtyard, with a stage and water feature and room for up to 800 people, and the intimate 180-seat auditorium with an open atrium, the station will work with students on Internet, media and other design and technological projects.

Bond Measure AA passed in 2008 by the citizens of Santa Monica provided $28 million of the $48 million dollar project, designed by Clive Wilkinson Architects, an award-winning firm specializing in environmentally friendly and energy efficient buildings.

The remaining $3 million yet to be raised will cover construction completion, the equipment fund, and the fund for programming and technology.

KCRW general manager and president, Jennifer Ferro has been giving personalized tours of the building during construction.

“Over here,” she said on a tour last week, “we’re bringing over the old metal bench that sits outside the entrance to the current KCRW, where we take photos of all the musicians, authors, celebrities and artists who visit us so we’ll have something of the old studio in the new space. And as suggested by one of our Board members, we’re going to have a space (naming rights already reserved) called The Basement Club House and Terrace, so we never forget where we came from.”

Finally unifying all of KCRW’s employees, Ferro continued, “Workspaces will be open and collaborative and there’ll be meeting rooms on each level, along with 18 studios spread across the three stories; they’ll be outfitted with floating floors to prevent vibrations from interfering with recordings.”

According to Ferro, what’s made this a successful capital campaign-the first major campaign in the station’s more than 75-year history-is because, “People love KCRW, and when you have a building, there’s a sense of urgency and purpose that involves physically manifesting something we’ve never been able to manifest before. We’ve always been ephemeral. With a building people can visualize it, and many want to see their names on it to say ‘I was here, I helped build this.’”

More importantly, she said, “In our current space, we haven’t been able to invite the public in. We’ve always done a lot of public programming, and that will continue-we live in a big city. But now we can easily create public events in our own space and actually bring the public in. It’s not just about fancy offices for us; it’s really about the community experience.”

Join the community and put your name on the donor wall. Contact