It’s been 26 years since WCHL moved its headquarters from East Franklin Street, the radio station’s home for more than four decades.

Later this month, however, the station is set to return to the part of Chapel Hill where it began broadcasting 70 years ago.

The Chapel Hill Media Group, which consists of 97.9 The Hill WCHL and, has purchased space in the 1525 East Franklin Street building for its new offices and broadcast studios. The radio station will be transitioning its operations next week, leaving its location at University Place on South Estes Drive where it has been since 2016.

“Leaving the mall is bittersweet,” says Aubrey Williams, the general manager for the Chapel Hill Media Group. “It’s been a fun seven years and it’s been a growth period for our companies (97.9 The Hill and But when this rare opportunity to own property on East Franklin Street was presented to us, we realized that we needed to act quickly.”

The space was most recently owned by Franklin Street Realty until the Chapel Hill Media Group purchased its part of the first floor in October. The new headquarters will have around 1,000 square feet more than the radio station’s previous home — including bigger rooms for on-air studios and events like WCHL’s monthly Community Leaders Café and annual Forum on The Hill, which will return in January.

Franklin Street Realty is not closing, but instead will be relocating within the building. After selling its office space to the radio station, the long-time realty business purchased the space that recently housed Allstate Insurance offices across the hallway in the ground floor. The building, which neighbors the Ballet School of Chapel Hill and Franklin Woods apartment complex, is also home to Jones Orthodontics and High Point University Health offices.

Patrons to the radio station, and other businesses at 1525 East Franklin Street, are asked to park in the back and enter the building into its upper floor — which is shown here. WCHL’s new location will be down the staircase and on the ground floor.

The relationship between WCHL and Franklin Street Realty dates as far back as the radio station’s original home. Founded in 1953, WCHL initially ran its AM radio operations out of 1720 East Franklin Street before moving across the street to 1721 East Franklin. When that move took place in 1958, Franklin Street Realty moved into the 1720 East Franklin building — which served as its home until the business moved to 1525 East Franklin Street.

“I, personally, am incredibly grateful to Sammy Martin at Franklin Street Realty,” says Williams. “Not only for being a longtime advertising partner of ours, but for having a vision of the Chapel Hill Media Group’s next era in the space that has housed FSR since 1996. The space itself is beautiful, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. In many ways, it’s like coming home, and I can’t wait for the rest of the community to see it.”

To allow for the transition of broadcast operations from 201 South Estes Drive to 1525 East Franklin Street, 97.9 The Hill WCHL will not air its live morning and afternoon shows on Monday, November 20 and instead play all-day music. Visitors to the radio station are asked to refrain from dropping by at University Place from Friday, November 17 onward. The East Franklin Street location will open its doors — and begin its live programming from the new studios on Tuesday, November 21.

Chapel Hill Media Group is owned by Chris Ehrenfeld, Mark Vitali and Jim Kitchen, who purchased 97.9 The Hill WCHL and as a group in 2015. More about the radio station’s history can be found here.


Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to better reflect that Franklin Street Realty is not closing its business with this move. does not charge subscription fees, and you can directly support our efforts in local journalism here. Want more of what you see on Chapelboro? Let us bring free local news and community information to you by signing up for our biweekly newsletter.