Thursday, July 18, 2024

Mailed invitations to Cambridge Community Television’s Sept. 16 Backyard BBQ has alerted residents to the station's impending move from Central Square.

Mailed invitations to Cambridge Community Television’s annual Backyard BBQ has alarmed people around the city — an unintended but not wholly undesirable result, said Sean Effel, associate director of the cable channels.

The invitation shows a Volkswagen Beetle, overburdened with boxes and equipment, driving away under the words “CCTV is on the move.” Below the image, residents are urged to “Come to (what is likely to be) CCTV’s Last Backyard BBQ (in Central Square).”

The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the station, 675 Massachusetts Ave. in Central Square. There is to be acclaimed Afro-beat music by Zili Misik, a presentation of Leading Role Awards, a silent auction and the usual heart-stopping array of foods from more than two dozen local food, drink and dessert purveyors. Ribs, chicken and other barbecue foods from East Coast Grill, Pitstop BBQ, Redbones and Rendezvous in Central Square is just the start of it.

But it’s also almost certainly the end of the channels’ prime real estate in the square.

“It’s clear we can’t stay here. It’s become too expensive,” Effel said Thursday. “We will have to leave. And that’ll have to happen soon.”

The barbecue, a fundraiser for the station’s Youth Media Program, has been held for the past 13 years. It can be the only time supporters of the stations communicate directly with its staff, Effel said, so revealing the impending move startled some people. “People responded saying, ‘What can we do,’” he said.

Landlord Intercontinental Real Estate Corp., of Boston, is allowing the organization to stay through the end of the year, as executive director Susan Fleischmann said in April, but that doesn’t leave much time to find new space satisfying a tricky set of specifications: a minimum of 6,500 square feet — an increase of 1,500 over the Massachusetts Avenue space; 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 organization wants to stay in Central Square and ideally keep a ground-floor, retail-style presence.

“We don’t know,” said Effel when asked the channels’ destination. “We’re still in the position that we haven’t found a suitable place — even though we’ve looked at many.”

The organization is still searching, helped by a hardworking real estate agent and city officials and staff, Effel said.

“The city’s been very sympathetic. I think they’re very pleased with the kind of services we offer,” he said.

The mailing misread by some as an immediate cause for concern could provide a jolt to the efforts to find a new home. At the least, it’s provided more awareness, he said.

“We didn’t mean to stir people up,” he said. “But it’s nice to hear the really positive responses.”

This post was updated Aug. 13 to identify Sean Effel as a source; the wrong name was used in the original.