CHAMPAIGN — The land surrounding the WDWS/WHMS/WUIL radio studios is up for sale, but the studios themselves are expected to remain at 2301 S. Neil St., C.
The 10.33-acre property, at the northwest corner of Neil Street and Windsor Road in Champaign, is listed with Sperry Van Ness/Ramshaw Real Estate, according to John Foreman, president of The News-Gazette Inc., which owns the radio stations.
The asking price is $3.5 million.
"The (radio) tower would stay, and it's our intention for the studios to stay," Foreman said. "If someone wanted it badly enough, the studios could be relocated, but the tower can't."
Foreman said WDWS doesn't need the land around it any more, though it did when it moved there in 1948.
"The land costs us money," Foreman said. "We pay taxes on the land, we maintain it as a lawn. It's expensive to maintain when it serves no real business purpose."
Explaining why the acreage was originally needed, Foreman said a set of radials emanate from the bottom of the radio tower, extending out from it like spokes of a wheel.
"They run underground over most of that property," he said. "Those are a significant element in creating your AM signal (for WDWS)."
For many years, WDWS operated on the presumption that the radials couldn't be disturbed, Foreman said.
But in the years since the tower was erected, engineers have found new ways to redesign radial antennas so they don't need to spread out like spokes, he said.
"We still have to have them," he said, but radials can be reconfigured to run around — and even over — buildings if necessary.
Anyone developing the land needs to be aware of the radials, he said. But they also should know that radials can be relaid around new construction.
"We'll relocate them around whatever is done," he said.
Foreman said he's confident development on the site won't harm the WDWS signal.
"Under no circumstance do we want to disrupt our signal," he said.
Alex Ruggieri of Sperry Van Ness/Ramshaw Real Estate called the property "probably the most extraordinary land brought to market in Champaign" in recent years, given its size and location at the corner of Neil and Windsor.
Ruggieri said there aren't many undeveloped properties of that size in the area situated between downtown Champaign, Willard Airport and the University of Illinois.
He said the property includes more than 600 feet of frontage along Neil Street, more than 600 feet along Windsor Road and about 750 feet along Fox Drive.
The western portion, along Fox Drive, is zoned commercial office, and the eastern portion, along Neil Street, is zoned commercial general, he said.
Foreman said when WDWS first moved to South Neil Street, it was "in the country."
Now the property is bounded by the Corporate Centre office park on the west, and the Shoppes of Knollwood shopping center is a little to the north.
Plus, a new commercial area is scheduled to be developed a half-mile east on Windsor Road, on the south side of the University of Illinois Research Park.