TCC Southeast redevelopment plans shaping up nicely

If a slide presentation shown to TCC’s Board of Trustees on Nov. 11 is any indication, the TCC Southeast Redevelopment Project is a whole which far exceeds the sum of its parts.

The descriptions of Dan Eikenberry and Gardner Vass of Perkins&Will architects projected an atmosphere of warmth, welcoming, openness, engagement and light.

Take, for example, the approach from the north to the new Student Experience Building. The glazed walls are such that one can see the activity and bustle within the building – students being greeted and guided to whatever services they require.  It’s as if one is already inside the building before entering the door.

Inside, all is open. A large welcome desk. No corridors, just a large central space ringed by student services. No ordinary staircase, but rather a “learning stair,” a broad amphitheater-like structure providing not only access to the second level but also a place for students, faculty and staff to hang out and chill out. The staircase doubles as a light source, furnishing an atrium for illumination to flow from the second level to the first.

But the Student Experience Building plan makes it more a waystation than final destination. The same visual flow leading into the building from the north continues with a view south to a grassy courtyard bordered with lawn furniture and then beyond through the learning commons, or library, and even further through a raised portion of the new Academic Building. It’s as if the Student Experience Building makes a sweeping gesture and says to the newcomer, “This is your future.”

“We are redefining the central axis,” Eikenberry said, “creating a new front door for the campus, drawing people through that main corridor into what we think of as the heart and the hub of the campus, which is going to be the new Learning Commons, and then through to the south side where we’re anchoring the entire campus with that Academic Building.”

The points along the axis aren’t the only ones getting some sparkle. The SEE wing, a quiet backwater much of the time, will undergo an extensive renovation after the new buildings are completed.

“We’re doing some heavy renovation there,” Eikenberry said. “We want to open it up, provide more spacious corridors for informal studying and gathering. We’re also creating some vertical connectivity by punching some holes in slabs, popping up the roof and bringing sunshine in.”

“The final renderings of the new TCC Southeast were wonderful,” said campus President Bill Coppola. “It is obvious that the work of the Principle teams are coming to fruition. The new student experience and learning environments will enhance the already collaborative learning styles already incorporated at Southeast. We are looking forward to the additional space both in and out of the buildings.”

Coppola wasted no time sharing the presentation with faculty and staff, giving them a showing the after the Board of Trustees viewed it. “My initial impression is that students will have a ton of space and it will be home away from home for many of them,” said History Instructor Stephanie Hawkins. “The wow factor is definitely the architecture. It reminds me a bit of the newer buildings on the Richland College Campus.”

Work planned outside the primary campus footprint, while not as head-turning, will still be welcome. The six temporary structures to the east will disappear, and the gravel parking lot will be expanded and paved, helping to alleviate a problem that has existed at Southeast since it opened in 1996.

In all, the campus will gain about 100,000 square feet and will be large enough to accommodate enrollment through 2030. The new buildings will account for about 100,000 square feet of the total, and 281,000 square feet of the present structure will be renovated.

The TCC Southeast project, budgeted at $142 million, is part of an $825 bond program approved by Tarrant County voters in November 2019. Work is underway on construction documents, which should be done by February 2022. Construction is to begin in March, with a projected completion date of September 2024.