BETHESDA - The owner of Washington area radio station WMAL (630 AM) put the station’s 75-acre transmitter site here on the market earlier this week, the first step in what will likely be the area's largest redevelopment project in years.
Cumulus Media is receiving offers until March 12 from developers interested in the residential property, located at 7115 Greentree Road near the Beltway and I-270 spur.
Local real estate experts estimate the property may be worth nine figures. There is no asking price, but a representative from Cumulus’ brokerage firm CBRE Group, Inc. said the property’s size and location should command strong competition.
“Seventy-five acres in Bethesda,” said John Sheridan, Senior Vice President for CBRE. “You don’t need to say anything more than that. It is a huge parcel of land with some of the highest income demographics. There’s the potential to build 300 or more homes.”
The site is residential—part of the R-90 zone—allowing prospective developers to use it to build homes in varying sizes. Currently the space is a hilly expanse of grass with WMAL’s four massive transmitter towers, satellite dishes and a transmission building the station hasn’t manned in years.
Cumulus took control of the 90-year old station in 2011 when it purchased Citadel Broadcasting for $2.2 billion. Soon after, it started simulcasting the station’s programming on 105.9 WVRX-FM, renamed WMAL-FM.
The company hasn’t shared specific details about relocating the transmission equipment but said in a statement that it remains committed to broadcasting through the AM frequency.
“We expect to realize substantial value from this land sale, which will not disrupt our current programming in the Washington area nor our long-standing commitment to the existing live and local programming that is important to our listeners,” the statement read.
Last year, Cumulus agreed to sell its 10-acre broadcast facility in Los Angeles for $125 million.
Other aspects about the potential development are unclear, including questions about access and a possible need for new traffic patterns. The southern edge of the property runs adjacent to the Beltway between Old Georgetown Road and the I-270 spur, but it’s unknown whether developers will propose to build a new exit for the Beltway.
The site is just a half-mile from the second richest neighborhood in the United States, according to Business Insider, which estimated the average household income for the Bradley Manor-Longwood neighborhood of Bethesda—farther south on Greentree Road—is nearly $600,000.
Though the transmitter site is private, local residents use it year-round. The “dog park,” as many call the space, is a de facto recreational spot for dog-walking groups, cross country teams and kids playing sports.
“It will be sad to lose this place because of the community,” said Bethesda resident Jinks George Millspaugh. “Some people have been coming here with their dogs, children and friends for 30 years. When people have gotten an illness in the family or lost their job, we have been here gathering and supporting one another for years."
*This story has been updated as of 2/12/2015.