The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Residents divided on TCC’s plans for downtown campus

By Katie B. Martinez/reporter

A standing-room-only crowd attended the July 10 special TCC board meeting to discuss the downtown campus’ design and opposition to the sunken plaza that was recently triggered by downtown businessman Ed Bass.

The meeting, a virtual who’s who of downtown Fort Worth development, was attended by almost 150 people and the board heard testimony from dozens of citizens on opposite sides of the debate.

Bing Thom, the Canadian architect designing the new campus, gave a detailed presentation and addressed each of the concerns put forth by architects and other experts at last month’s workshop sponsored by Downtown Inc. and others.

Thom stood by his original plans and explained the plaza’s design.

“ The idea was to bring the river and the bluff into the campus, into downtown, which we did by creating a view of the river from the plaza and working in the water element and the greenery into the design,” he said.

Thom’s design features a 25-foot waterfall and flowing water along the entire open plaza that will lead down to a bridge across the Trinity River, where part of the new campus will be built.

Bass and others argued that sunken plazas have proved unsuccessful in other cities as a popular gathering place for people, which is what they would like to see happen in the space.

Bass, in his 20-minute speech, referred to the current plaza design as “an acre of cement stairs.”

He said TCC had an opportunity to do something great for the community by turning this plaza into a public gathering space, but a retired TCC security officer said he did not think this public space was a good idea for the college.

“ This would create an issue with security,” he said, explaining that persons on campus who are not students or faculty pose the greatest security risk and that children running around, as Bass has proposed, would open up the college to liability.

Several people expressed concern that making the entryway into the college a public gathering place might attract an undesirable crowd.

One Fort Worth resident said when she went to check out the area for the proposed plaza, she was accosted by a homeless man who jumped up on a boulder and screamed the word “hamburger” at her before running away.

J.D. Granger, executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority, argued that the location of the sunken plaza is best suited to providing an entrance to the college and not as an open public square.

“ It is basically like being in between two freeways. I know that some have proposed slowing the traffic along the plaza, but people don’t want to do that coming off of those ramps,” he said.

Granger said successful public plazas should be bordered by retail shops and restaurants which this location does not offer and suggested the parking area in Sundance Square, owned by Bass, would be an ideal location for such a plaza and that the city has wanted to build a plaza there since 1983.

Those who spoke seemed to be split down the middle.

Councilwoman Wendy Davis, whose district includes downtown, said in a letter that the current design would not contribute to the vibrancy of downtown and that she had “serious reservations” about the sunken plaza.

Jim Oliver, executive director of the Tarrant Regional Water District, had nothing but praise for TCC and Bing Thom’s design.

“ We have been very well informed of TCC’s plans since the very beginning stages, and we are incredibly supportive of what you guys [TCCD] are doing,” he said.

Judge Glenn Whitley of the Tarrant County courthouse admitted to having little architectural creativity, but encouraged the board to take into consideration the concerns of the downtown community.

Rivers and Streams representatives reiterated their primary concern, public access to the Trinity River.

One speaker spoke out against the lavish price tag of the new campus.

Larry Meeker, who served on the committee that founded the college district in 1965, said he was concerned TCC was getting off track with what the founders of the TCCD had intended—affordable education for everyone.

After three hours of public input, the board said it would give due diligence to their decisions.

The board will meet Tuesday, July 17, when trustees are expected to announce their decision regarding the plaza design.

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