Finally starting this build thread. As a record of the long journey to where we are today this first entry is going to be long, very long. Feel free to skip ahead for current updates, but I want (need?) to document this for myself more than anything.
I grew up in a superb of LA. After college I moved from California to Utah on a bit of a whim, and opened a small studio in a turn of the century home in downtown Provo. The studio grew so my wife and I managed to get an SBA loan and with it we renovated the house and improved the gear.
Here are some shots from 2000 after our grand re-opening:
It was pretty small, maybe 1600 sq feet, but it was nice, sounded good and we stayed busy.
In 2003 my wife and I decided to move back to LA and were able to sell the studio - the house, the equipment, the name June Audio, all of it.
I found good work in LA, and learned from some amazing engineers and producers, but eventually realized that the studio lifestyle in LA wasn’t going to work for me. After weighing options, we decided to move back to Utah.
At that point the June Audio equipment and name had been sold once again, and had been moved to a new location in Provo - a space designed by Karl Yancher as part of a larger film studio complex. Their B studio was available so I moved in there as a mix / overdub room, and rented out June Audio studio A as a client when I needed a larger space.
More changes happened and in 2010 I found myself moving into studio A, buying the same gear again and getting the name June Audio back.
Here are some shots of that incarnation of the studio:
Still just a one-studio operation, but this one was larger - around 2000 sq feet and quiet, clean balanced power, etc. We didn’t, however, own the building, so while we had a long-term lease, ultimately our fate wasn’t completely in our hands.
In December of 2011 our landlord decided to sell the building - the new owners, a pest control company, weren’t sure they wanted a recording studio in the middle of their building, so we started considering options. Since we still had 6 years left on our lease and our landlord wanted to make good on it, he proposed building us a new studio in another location so he could sell the building with no strings attached.
After a lot of deep diving on Gearslutz and TapeOp.com I knew that if I had the choice I would love to work in a Wes Lachot designed space. We called Wes and he agreed to fly out to Utah to look at spaces and discuss what we would need. We had a great meeting, but within a few months the new buyers changed their tune and our lease was sold to them along with the building, so now rather than being a recording studio in the middle of a film studio, we were a recording studio in the middle of a pest control office.
We managed to stay very busy despite the fact that coming and going through the pest control offices was strange for us, strange for clients, and I’m sure strange for pest controllers.
Eventually, in need of more office space, our new landlords began to float the idea of us moving out. The truth was, however, that our lease was pretty sweet and it was hard to want to move, and overwhelming to figure out how to take on a commercial studio build on our own with no deep pockets behind it.
In November of 2014 the pest controllers got serious and offered us a buyout for our lease which was to end in August of 2018. Knowing a little bit about just how expensive a studio build can be, and realizing it was probably better to leave with some money than to ride out our lease, we signed papers, cashed the check and agreed to be out by August 2016.
So we set about trying to find a new location. We needed something free-standing (didn’t want to share walls with neighbors if possible), preferably with a large open space and high ceilings. Although they certainly offer the most bang for the buck, I was hoping not to end up in a roll-up door warehouse / industrial area. Nothing wrong there of course, but they tend to be on the outside of town and I love being close to restaurants, music venues, galleries, and shops so there is somewhere to walk to when a long session requires a break.
We looked everywhere and at everything, my favorite was a former tire store that had been sitting vacant for a few years. It had great access, great parking, good views and a large open area with 20’ clear ceilings. We made an offer but lost to another buyer.
Next up was a huge former auto dealership / auto garage built in the 1940’s. This space was far too big for what we needed, but we figured we could lease the extra space, and the location and vibe were great for our studio. It was, however, along the main street through town, which is loud and busy! In May 2015 we moved forward, made an offer which was accepted, contacted Wes and arranged for him to fly back to Provo to see the space and take measurements. At this point I had a key to the space and had spent plenty of time dreaming of all the possibilities and how great it was going to be. The day arrived, I headed to the building to meet Wes, fresh off his flight from North Carolina. I was ready to get going and start this design process and get things moving so we would have a new studio to land in when we had to move in late 2016.
Wes showed up, walked in the building, looked around for about 45 seconds and then told me there was no way this building would work, and we would spend every dollar of our budget just trying to get the road noise out of the building and have nothing left to finish the studio interior. This was a real blow, we had been down the road with realtors, deposits, etc and now we were back to square one, not to mention the fact that we had flown Wes out for 3 days and by 11am on the first day we had nothing left to do. It may sound harsh that Wes shut things down so quickly, but truthfully it’s exactly why we needed someone of his caliber, and exactly what we paid him for.
We spent the rest of the weekend looking around town at other possibilities, and Wes gave us a ton of information about what we should be looking for in a potential building.
In August of 2015 the tire shop we missed out on went back on the market after a failed closing and this time our offer was accepted. I was sure this was the best option so as you may have guessed, in September of 2015, out came Wes once again to see and measure the tire shop.
With the clock started on our escrow period for the building we got to work meeting with contractors, having plans drawn, paying for appraisals and then phase 1 and phase 2 environmental reports. We were spending a lot of money and in many cases having to pay to expedite the process in order to make our deadlines. By the end of September 2015 we had our first set of plans from Wes. We would be building a 3 studio complex, an A and B room as well as a smaller production room that we would rent out on a monthly basis.
We met with banks. Many, many banks. I think to this day we have probably met with and even gone all the way through to an approval with 8 or 9 banks. If you’ve taken out a big SBA loan before, you know just how much work that is. Many nights were spent filling out applications and gathering financials for yet another application. Some approved us, some denied us, many were very confused by what we were attempting to do, and some just lost interest in something so complicated.
In January of 2016 I flew back east to visit some studios that Wes Lachot Design Group had designed.
Nothing made me more confident in our choice to use Wes and his team than going in these great studios. I have worked in a lot of different places but I can honestly say I have never heard monitoring like I heard in these control rooms, they were just so incredible to listen in.
I also had the chance to meet Tony Brett and tour his shop - Brett Acoustics. I’m very excited to have him involved in our new space too.
Due to all the work that needed to be done with plans and bids and loans we managed to get the seller to extend our escrow and closing was set for February 29, 2016. Wes and his team continued to refine plans, we continued to gather bids and as commercial development newbies we got ripped off by one contractor to the tune of $10k! We persisted and things were getting closer to closing and the plan was coming together.
Then, out of the blue, an unusual email. A real estate development company had been buying up property in the shipping center surrounding the tire store and wanted “our” space as well. At this point we were into that location nearly $100k between plans, inspections, environmental, deposits, etc etc, so we gave them a polite “thanks but no thanks” - we were moving forward. They asked for more meetings, and then more meetings, and in the end, with the help of a good friend brought in to negotiate, we assigned our purchase agreement and walked with a pretty serious sum of money - pretty great for never even owning the building. A couple days after signing over the purchase rights, Wes sent me the final plans for the studio in that space.
The tire shop has since been demolished which hurts my heart a little - I still think it would have been a great studio.
March 2016, we have some money in the bank, but only 5 months left on our lease and we are busy as ever with sessions. Clearly we won’t have a new studio built in time, so we begin looking for temporary locations we could use while we build. A friend let me know that our old location, the house downtown, was sitting vacant and could potentially be for sale again. The good news, the lot the house sits on is large and could fit a large studio (with some significant work), the bad news, the house was in pretty bad shape, no longer a studio, and not even a place where you’d want to bring a client.
After a little more investigation and measuring, we realized the lot was nearly the size of the old tire shop, and started thinking that maybe we could take Wes’s tire shop studio plans and make them fit behind the old house. We were really hoping to get some value out of them and not have to pay to redraw.
With my advanced graphic design skills, I made these layouts in microsoft excel to show the original site layout (above), and how Wes’s tire shop plans could fit in the same space (below).
Yes, that is a giant concrete box attached to the back of a classic revival turn of the century historic home. It’s fine. We can make it work. It’s an amazing location.
I contacted the current owner, did some negotiating and ended up buying the house, for the second time, and for very nearly double what we had bought it for 17 years earlier. It’s fine. Totally worth it. This area of town is growing and appreciating quickly.
We hired a local contractor to help us rehab the house, and a local architect to design a shell for the new studios.
Before photos of the house:
In July 2016 we took the studio offline, and began to pack up and move things. The house would serve as a home for our studio while we built the new spaces behind. We have quite a bit of gear, so moving was a pretty big ordeal and now we have two storage units full of things that won’t fit in the house.
Knowing the old space in the pest control building was to be demolished, we pretty much gutted it, saving everything we could from cabling, to track lighting, to light switches & controllers. Other local studio owners came in and took the engineered wood floors, stretched fabric, and insulation out of the walls.
While we waited for the house renovation to be completed, we set up gear in my garage to inventory cable and get everything wired up and working - hoping for a quick installation when the house was ready.
Some renovation shots of the house:
We started moving gear into the house in September and when the work was done our first session was for The Killers upcoming Christmas single. It was October 8, 2016 and it was very cold outside. Unfortunately somewhere along the way we forgot to have the gas turned on, and as it was the weekend, we had no heat, nor way to get the heat turned on. A quick trip to Home Depot for some small electric heaters and our first session was a success.
Here is how the house looks now:
We thought we would be in the house - our temporary home - for about a year. Although it’s a bit cozy and we miss so much of our great gear that’s sequestered in storage, it has thankfully been a very functional space. We love the location, clients love the vibe. So now, two years later, work has finally just begun on the new building. In that time we’ve met with even more banks, finally obtaining an SBA 504 loan with good terms from US Bank. We met with and received bids from many contractors - each one having to dig in and figure out the complexities of studio construction. We worked with the city to make whatever modifications/clarifications/compromises they asked for and obtained our construction permits. We got all the way through the process and decided it was too expensive, then went back to adjust the plans and have them re-bid, only to discover that in the time it took to go through the process again overall construction prices had gone up by almost exactly the same amount we’d saved. We finally deciding to go with Zadok Construction as GC. Harris Architecture here in Provo designed our new shell, and Suzanne Hall with Alice Lane Interior Design designed the common areas in the new space as well as the interior details of the house. We’ve assembled a great team and everyone is excited to see it actually happening now.
We’ve given up trying to predict or plan this project. The contractor says it could be 6 months. We’re preparing ourselves for double that.
It has been a long journey here, just look at all the locations that were possibilities:
And finally, for this post anyway, here is our soon to be floor plan:
And some future elevations:
If you’ve actually read this far, let me just say thanks for hanging in there. I promise not to be nearly so long winded in future posts - just felt the need to get this all down for the sake of documenting the journey. Planning and preparing for this construction project has been so all-consuming over the past number of years sometimes I forget that having it finished and open and working is actually the end goal. Here’s hoping I can keep this new studio running for longer than it took me to write this first post.