WATERLOO -- KWWL-TV has never been set in its ways.
But the Waterloo television station has been settled in its home at East Fourth and Franklin streets for 58 years.
Now that home is being remodeled.
The station's headquarters is getting a brand-new look on the air and a touch of historic nostalgia on the outside.
"The entire news operation is moving," station manager Jim McKernan said. The newsroom and news set are relocating from ground level to state-of-the-art facilities on the second floor.
KWWL News anticipates broadcasting from its new set within about 10 days.
Once that move is complete, a major renovation of the ground floor will begin, McKernan said. It will be home to new administrative offices.
A complete facelift and renovation of the 1914 building is under way. The station's main entrance, and its address, will shift from East Fourth Street to East Fifth Street. First-floor slate paneling will be removed and windows restored along Franklin and East Fourth.
The station and its owner, Quincy Media Inc., are committed to downtown Waterloo, McKernan said. What was a $5.2 million project is now more than $9 million.
"The initial estimates didn't take into account some of the things we ultimately found as we dug deeper," McKernan said. "It was that much more intricate, particularly from a historic standpoint. All of it, from top to bottom, was just more involved than what we originally thought."
The project has also become somewhat of an archaeological dig. Everything from a massive coal bin that once served the building to foundations of old homes from more than 75 years ago have been discovered.
The project is half done, McKernan said. The part that's finished is what viewers and the general public will see first.
”From a television standpoint this is state of the art, and the video capabilities we have with these monitors is superior," McKernan said. There are multiple remote monitors, and reports can be projected on the video panels behind the anchor desk. Half the space will be devoted to an enhanced weather operation.
The color of the set can be changed -- orange for morning, blue for evening and even red, white and blue for election night coverage.
"For breaking weather and breaking news we can change it to a dominant red color," said news director Shane Moreland. It also has energy-efficient LED lighting.
It's will be a big change from the news department's current catacomb-like setting.
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"What the big difference is going to be for the newsroom is ... windows!" McKernan said.
"Ron Steele has never seen a sunset," Moreland joked, referring to the station's longtime news anchor.
Steele confirmed that.
"I'm totally looking forward to that, just being able to look out the window after all this time," Steele said, adding with a smile, "It's a spiritual thing."
The newsroom will be located next to the news set. Morning, weekend and evening news producers, reporters and anchors will be grouped together, and an assignment desk of newsroom executives will feature a social news operation.
The station doesn't plan a special broadcast to mark the transition.
"We want the set to speak for itself, do our regular news coverage," Moreland said. "Viewers will see the same content. Hopefully they'll notice the difference."
The change required nearly six miles of wiring just in the news area, said Daniel Whealey, chief engineer.
"There isn't one wire related to television that hasn't been touched in this project in the past five years," Whealey said. "We want it to last for 30-plus years. We built it right the first time so we don't have to come back and do it again."
It's a major milestone in KWWL history -- in a historic building, McKernan said.
"We've got to adhere to historic standards because this is a project that's being supported by state and federal historic tax credits," he said, noting the KWWL building is now on the National Register of Historic Places. "It has to be exceptionally well planned out."
A new elevator replaces an old, freight-sized elevator harkening back to the when the building housed a car dealership.
The station parking lot is being renovated and expanded, including the former American Legion building site. Satellite dishes were relocated from roof to the north side of the property.
Quincy also invested in KWWL to be part of the broader rejuvenation of Waterloo's downtown.
"We hope to be an impetus in helping this neighborhood around us renovate as well. In our view, and the view of others, we are effectively extending downtown Waterloo with this project," McKernan said.