By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Clear Channel Communications Cincinnati is poised to become Clear Channel Communications Kenwood by this time next summer, creating concerns for the ripple economic impact in the Mount Adams community as the company shifts about 250 employees.
Clear Channel, the San Antonio, Texas-based radio giant that owns or programs more than 1,200 radio stations worldwide, plans to consolidate its eight local radio stations and studios at Bank One Towers in Kenwood.
"We have been casually looking for a long, long time," said Mike Kenney, regional vice president for Clear Channel. "We need more space. We need to get all eight stations together."
The company attempted to expand at a Towne Properties building at 1111 St. Gregory St. in Mount Adams - where several stations currently are housed - but the site had insufficient parking and could not accommodate the 40 studios that needed to be built, Kenney said. An effort to keep the stations in or near downtown also failed, Kenney said.
"We looked at McFarland and Third streets. We looked out on West Third Street. We looked at other buildings downtown. In fact, I spent almost all my time looking at buildings downtown," Kenney said. "It just didn't work out."
Clear Channel will occupy the top floor of the Bank One Towers, a suburban landmark at the Montgomery Road exit on Interstate 71. The company has signed a 10-year lease for 50,000 square feet.
Kenney said the company should realize savings through efficiencies brought about by proximity to sister stations. For instance, it should be easier for Clear Channel account executives to sell time slots across multiple stations if those stations are in the same building.
The studios and offices of WKRC-TV will not be moved from 1906 Highland Ave. in Mount Auburn. Stations that will move include WVMX-FM, WSAI-AM, WOFX-FM, WLW-AM, WKRC-AM, WEBN-FM and WCKY-AM.
Kenney said Cincinnati officials attempted to help the company find a new location downtown or inside the city limits. Among the sites considered was a building undergoing renovation along I-71 in Corryville. In the end, Kenney said, those efforts could not match the package at the Bank One Towers. "We didn't hold anybody ransom or play hardball," he said. "There just wasn't a lot they (the city) could do."
Clear Channel is the latest firm to leave Mount Adams, creating some concern about ripple effects in the neighborhood. Inside Media Inc. took 10 jobs with it when the media buying agency left its Gregory Street offices more than a year ago for a renovated building in Newtown.
"With Clear Channel leaving Mount Adams, it's going to create some problems for retail stores, restaurants and bars up there," said Robert Riggsbee, president of Inside Media.
Radio executives traditionally spend money on clients, and that translates into cash for Mount Adams nightspots and restaurants. "It's going to be a tough putt up there. Those businesses are going to suffer," Riggsbee said. "Especially at lunchtime. It's going to be a different Mount Adams," he said.
Pat Sheppard, co-owner of Mount Adams Bar & Grill and nearby Blind Lemon on Hatch Street, said the departure of Clear Channel will create a big economic impact on area businesses.
Celebrities such as former Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda, entertainer George Clooney and the rock group Kiss have left the Clear Channel studios and made their way down the street to Mount Adams Bar & Grill or the Blind Lemon for a meal or a drink, she said. "This is going to have a big impact."
While the move is a dollars-and-cents hit, it will be tough to put a price tag on the value of an on-the-air mention. When a radio personality talks about what a beautiful day it is in Mount Adams, that puts businesses in that neighborhood in the spotlight and reminds people that Mount Adams is an entertainment district with great views of town.
Sometimes, a personality would talk about the great cheeseburger he ate at the grill, Sheppard said.
"People ask me how much we pay those guys. I tell them we don't pay them anything," she said. "It just reminded people that Mount Adams was a great place to be."
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