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KALW's downtown residency extended thanks to overwhelming community support

KALW @ 220 Montgomery, a flagship activation of SF New Deal’s Vacant to Vibrant program, has been extended through the end of this year thanks to overwhelming public support. The innovative public media organization transformed a dormant storefront into a thriving event space, newsroom, and studio that’s bringing neighbors together to redefine Bay Area community and culture in downtown San Francisco.

“Last year, KALW Public Media answered our call to collectively envision and create a window onto a different kind of downtown with this groundbreaking pop-up,” says SF New Deal Executive Director Simon Bertrang. “In just one season, they have turned a vacant storefront into a destination for hundreds of Bay Area residents, demonstrating that arts, culture and entertainment can drive new audiences downtown. We look forward to seeing them continue to engage the public in redefining the neighborhood with their efforts in the space this year.”

Since opening its doors last fall, KALW @ 220 Montgomery hosted 40 lively, in-person, arts and public affairs programs, establishing a welcoming cultural hub in downtown San Francisco. "KALW has done a great job bringing a new and exciting community to the Mills Building through interactive and engaging programming,” says Stacia Keisner, Vice President, Asset Management, of The Swig Company. "It’s been great to be a part of Vacant to Vibrant, and to be engaging in discussions about creating lasting impact and change downtown."

The free events hosted by KALW @ 220 Montgomery bring public media directly into the community, offering an inclusive, accessible platform for Bay Area residents to participate in making media with and for each other. KALW’s Town Halls offer voters, experts, and city officials a chance to connect as neighbors, fostering respectful, substantive, community-level conversations. These discussions transcend talking points and get to the heart of the most important issues affecting our region including the future of housing, teen mental health, public education, regional transportation, and reinventing journalism to strengthen democracy.

“This is media at a human scale,” says KALW Executive Director James Kass. “We believe that public media has a role to play in how a place defines itself and are blown away by the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity that the community is bringing to our downtown residency. Establishing KALW as a live and inclusive gathering place for smart, idealistic people who believe in the Bay Area is opening up new avenues for connection that will help define our region’s next era. We’re honored to be at heart of it and look forward to connecting even more deeply with the community throughout the year.”

Events at 220 provide a space for local creativity to shine. KALW’s music discovery program thrives, with DJs and live music sharing the stage with drum circles, dance lessons, and Karaoke parties that invite Bay Area neighbors to get in the groove together. Listening parties for renowned public radio shows like Sights & Sounds and The Kitchen Sisters run alongside daring storytelling, film, and poetry events that gather some of the region’s most thrilling performers. Neighborhood sponsors including local chef Gatore Mukarhinda, pizza places Joyride and Escape From New York, plus brewers including Cellarmaker, Drake’s, Fort Point, and Two Pitchers boost the vibe with their culinary creations, giving folks in the area a chance to break bread together.

“The impact KALW has made in activating their storefront on Montgomery Street has been inspiring, and has offered a vision for an evolving and dynamic downtown. Their success through Vacant to Vibrant, and The Swig Company’s commitment to establishing a pathway for their continued tenancy, is a testament to the excitement about reimagining downtown San Francisco. Through panel discussions, gallery shows and creative programming they have forged new uses on the ground floor, and brought us a step closer to the future of downtown,” says Sarah Dennis Phillips, Executive Director, San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Ben joined KALW in 2004. As Executive News Editor and then News Director, he helped the news department win numerous regional and national awards for long- and short-form journalism. He also helped teach hundreds of audio producers, many of whom work with him at KALW, today.