Faculty brainstorms Walter Cronkite Plaza redesign at town hall meeting

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Moody College Dean Jay Bernhardt, left, speaks at a Walter Cronkite Plaza brainstorming session Wednesday morning. Al York, a principal of McKinney York Architects, attended the meeting with members of the firm to receive public feedback.

Photo Credit: Mariana Bulgarelli | Daily Texan Staff

Communications faculty members expressed their visions for a revamped, collaboration-friendly Walter Cronkite Plaza during a Wednesday meeting and brainstorming session at the Belo Center for New Media.  

The plaza, built in 1975 and located between the William Randolph Hurst Building and Jesse H. Jones Communication Center, is slated for renovation by McKinney York Architects in partnership with the Moody College of Communication and Project Management and Construction Services. The meeting was held to obtain public feedback on problems to be addressed and potential innovative features for the new design.

“(The Plaza) has never really been given a major overhaul,” said Moody College Dean Jay Bernhardt at the meeting. “Because it’s literally the center between our buildings and a lot of what we do, it’s an important location both aesthetically and functionally for the college.”

The redevelopment process is currently in the feasibility study phase, which looks to gather ideas and identify potential obstacles. The next step would be fundraising by the college, followed by design and construction.

Bernhardt said the design will hopefully be completed by the end of the year. Once construction begins, it could last one year or more, depending on fundraising.

Some attendees proposed a biosphere, makerspace or water installation as improvements to the Plaza, which was described as unsheltered and dirty. Heather McKinney, founding principal of McKinney York Architects, said any new structures cannot affect the Ben Rubin art installation, which is often projected onto the CMA at night. 

“Building something that’s two-story or three-story in the middle of the plaza probably is going to impact that and not be possible,” McKinney said at the meeting. “That doesn’t mean that there’s not the ability to create shade structure, linkages with the bridge or a pavilion, it just can’t be in that space.” 

Regardless of the final design, McKinney said her company wants to create a space unique to Moody. Al York, who is also a principal of McKinney York Architects, said the company has done multiple projects with the University and does not expect the renovation to be too challenging.

“The enthusiasm of the college is critical to the success of these sort(s) of things,” York said. “It is clear that the dean and the college have a vision for what this is going to be, so I think they are well positioned to make this a great project.”