Arts & Culture

KPFT Faces Uncertain Future With Sale Of Montrose Home Pending

The station has called Houston’s Montrose neighborhood home for more than 50 years.

KPFT, 90.1, Pacifica building at 419 Lovett Boulevard in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood

Pacifica station KPFT is selling its historic home in Houston's Montrose neighborhood, leaving some wondering if the station will find a new building or continue on without a home.

The Pacifica Foundation, the California-based public radio partnership that owns KPFT, sent an email to its members regarding the sale.

“Pacifica is in the process of relocating KPFT, our Houston station, to another site in Houston which can best suit our needs,” the email read. “Projected costs for the major repair and restoration of the building proved to be prohibitive and the property is now on the market.”

The email states that the funds gained from the sale would go towards the station’s relocation. However, some aren’t convinced.

There's a risk that the Pacifica Foundation will take the money and use it to prop up financially troubled stations on the East or West Coasts, according to Duane Bradley, a former KPFT general manager of 15 years who still volunteers with the station.

"To me, it's the great concern that KPFT is going to be sold out," Bradley said. "I've seen it too often happen when…that money is kind of put into the expediency of taking care of immediate financial difficulties on the national level – in New York City particularly, which has been a financial hemorrhage for Pacifica for decades, and others on the West Coast – leaving KPFT essentially homeless."

The station has been operating remotely since the start of the pandemic and theoretically could continue to do so, Bradley said.

He added that he's not concerned about the loss of the Montrose location itself. What worries him is the loss of what the building represents — a gathering place for the community.

"We've kind of in a sense gotten used to not having that community space, but knowing it was still there and that at some point we could come back was somewhat reassuring," Bradley said. "And as we're coming out of this pandemic phase of our existence, to not have that as a possibility is saddening."

KPFT officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The left-leaning, listener-supported station has operated out of Montrose for more than 50 years. It's one of five stations owned by the Pacifica Foundation — the other four operating out of the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Houston's station was the fourth station in the network.

Shortly after KPFT was launched, it was bombed off the air when its transmitter was attacked in May of 1970 by a local Ku Klux Klan member. Four months later, the same person set off another bomb.

Bradley said the station's long history will guarantee its future.

"I honestly don't think that the license itself, which has just been renewed, is going to be sold," he said. "I think that KPFT represents too much in the realm of Pacifica and in broadcasting itself."

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that KPFT was one of five remaining stations in the Pacifica network. KPFT is one of five stations that are owned by the Pacifica Foundation, while the Pacifica Network has over 200 affiliate stations across the nation.