It's not easy launching a brand-new radio station -- which the Dallas Arts District Foundation discovered after trying for the last three years. But by 2018 at the latest, it expects to start broadcasting from 95.7 on your FM dial.
The FCC has approved its call letters, KKAD. But for now, much about is up in the air, including when it will go live.
The radio station will have a small reach -- just a few miles -- but the vision is for KKAD 95.7-FM to share the fruits of a cultural center with a seemingly unlimited audience who stream it online.
KKAD could "highlight downtown Dallas as a neighborhood, a cultural district," says Catherine Cuellar, former executive director of the Dallas Arts District when local DJ Reid Robinson came up with the idea.
"There are a whole lot of people everyday who are in downtown, steps away from where great shows, exhibits and conversations are occurring -- but they have no idea," Cuellar says. KKAD 95.7-FM could be a voice for artists, authors, storytellers, musicians, scientists, filmmakers and others. It is expected to broadcast 24/7.
Getting this far wasn't easy. Robinson, who has been a DJ with KNON for nearly eight years, called it "the challenge of a lifetime to have a shot at obtaining a permit, especially in a top five market's downtown core."
The month-long window to apply for the FCC permit opened in November 2013. Up against "dozens of applicants," Robinson says, he and a team spent 500 hours of engineering and legal paperwork to score the frequency and construction permit.
After a nearly two-year application process with the FCC, the permit was issued on June 9, 2015. But the Dallas Arts District was in a state of transition that lasted for several months. In April 2016, Lily Weiss became the new executive director; the first expiration date for the construction permit was Dec. 20, 2016, and they weren't ready.
Weiss saw no choice but to file for a one-time-only 18-month extension. Now, KKAD is now required to launch by the end of June 2018.
"We want to do what's good for the Dallas Arts District. But more importantly, we want to do what's best for our greater downtown," Weiss says. "KKAD will be filled with content, but not exclusively from the Dallas Arts District. It's important for the city of Dallas to have a community voice."
Dallas Arts District Foundation Board Chair Kevin Moriarty calls the coming-soon station "a good way to engage folks and build stronger neighborhoods."
While large stations broadcast at 50,000 to 100,000 watts, catering to millions of potential listeners, KKAD will operate at 100 watts as a Low Power FM station (LPFM). LPFMs are typically used in rural areas, though KUZU launches this summer in Denton and The Pirate has been serving some of Fort Worth since 2015.
KKAD's location is currently undetermined. Designer Bob Suffolk says the studio will be built with vintage equipment and recycled materials and will potentially use some solar power.
When it launches, Robinson hopes the station "will engage our city in a very direct way."
By JEREMY HALLOCK, Special Contributor
CORRECTION, 3 p.m. Feb. 28, 2017: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Kevin Moriarty's last name as Moriarity.