CCTV’s forced search for replacement space ‘down to the wire’
Cambridge Community Television’s search for office and studio space is “down to the wire,” executive director Susan Fleischmann said Thursday, and there is still no deal in place or lease signed.
CCTV must leave its ground-floor 675 Massachusetts Ave. space — the entrance is around the corner, on Prospect Street — and have new, customized space to move into by October. The cable-access content provider signed a long-term lease in 1995 and was on an extension when, late in 2008, the building housing it was sold to Intercontinental Real Estate Corp., of Boston.
“They had the intent of raising the quality of the building, or something like that,” Fleischmann said. “We were unable to reach any agreement … They think they can hold out for higher-paying tenants.”
That meant a search for space with a very specific set of characteristics: a minimum of 6,500 square feet, an increase of 1,500 over the Massachusetts Avenue space where, Fleischmann said, “we’re kind of busting out of our seams”; a spot in which a 900-square-foot studio with high ceilings can be carved out; and a cost in the low to mid-twenties per square foot.
The search has been mainly in Central Square, where those factors present a challenge.
“There’s the reality of property owners and their rent expectations versus what a tenant is willing to pay for rent. There might be a slight disjoint,” said City Manager Robert W. Healy this week at a City Council meeting, noting the availability of public transportation as a factor in higher prices.
Despite Central Square having several large, empty storefront spaces, Fleischmann knows it is unrealistic to expect CCTV to move into another retail space with the same kind of ground-floor visibility, “which will be a shame. It’s a big loss for us.”
The city has helped with identifying possible locations, and Fleischmann said a couple of options remain.
At the same time, CCTV is conducting a vital $1 million fundraising drive, with the proceeds to be divided among the city’s three cable channels. While the money can help with a move, it must also go toward replacing equipment, some of which is 22 years old, she said. The city is renegotiating its contract with cable television provider Comcast, which provides financial support from subscriber fees. “We’re hoping there will be extra money in that for buildout costs,” Fleischmann said, but the channels have needs greater than can be fulfilled by the noncompetitive negotiations. “We’re sort of on our own.”
“Hopefully everything will fall into place,” she said. “We have to look at it as an opportunity. We really need more space.”
Intercontinental was called repeatedly over the past two weeks for comment, but no company representative returned messages. That leaves it unclear what kind of tenant the company hopes will replace CCTV on Prospect Street. A Leader Bank branch office and mobile-phone store fills the high-rise building’s storefronts on Massachusetts Avenue.