Plans move forward for Annenberg building

A timeline has been set, an architect has been selected and a tentative site has been chosen for the new Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism building.

The Annenberg Foundation donated $50 million in October to create a new state-of-the-art building on the USC campus.

Change · Students study in the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism’s east lobby. The building will still be used for classes. - Jennifer Schultz | Daily Trojan

“The planning process has been underway for several months and includes a strategic assessment of the school’s current space, future space needs, existing buildings, what might move to a new building and what might stay in an existing building,” said Joe Back, associate senior vice president for Campus Development and Facilities Management.

This week, DEGW, a strategic business consultancy firm that is working with the Annenberg School to plan the building, held a series of workshops with students, faculty and administrators to get feedback on the beginning design stages of the building.

Feedback from students and faculty at yesterday’s Media Production workshop, which focused on what media production will look like in the new building, included a wish for more collaborative media space and improved spaces for Annenberg student media organizations like Neon Tommy and Annenberg TV News.

“A key focus is that we want the new building to be able to focus on student-produced programs and showcase these programs in the new building,” said James Vasquez, assistant dean of operations at Annenberg.

Technology and equipment updates were another common issue discussed in yesterday’s workshop.

“The broadcast industry is moving so quickly that it’s hard to keep up,” said Sean Patrick Lewis, a sophomore majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. “I’m hopeful that with the new building we’ll not only caught up, but be ahead of the game.”

The workshops have also discussed ways to improve the current Annenberg building, which will remain a part of the Annenberg School. Vazques said, however, that he is not certain how the current Annenberg building will be utilized when the new building is complete.

The site has been tentatively set as the southeast corner of Watt and Childs Ways, next to the Pertusati Bookstore. The Campus Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees must first approve the site after a presentation in April.

Annenberg hired Harley Ellis Devereaux, an architecture firm, to construct the building. Vasquez said firm will be given the feedback from the workshops to help create designs for the new building. Space planning should be completed by September or October of this year, according to Vasquez.

The groundbreaking for the new building is set for June 2012, and construction is expected to take 18 months. The launch of the building is expected to occur in Fall 2014.

In addition to opening more space to bring back various Annenberg centers that have been moved off-campus, such as the Center for Health Reporting, an organization that partners journalists with news organizations to learn about health care in California, the new building will give the current Annenberg building a new sense of purpose, according to Vasquez.

“We expect to be able to bring some of these centers back,” Vasquez said, “and continue to be a fully functioning building that will complement a new location.”

Since Annenberg expanded to encompass undergraduate journalism and communication as well as the existing graduate school programs 16 years ago, the building originally built for 100 people has come to serve more than 2,200 students and 83 full-time faculty members, according to Vasquez.

“For the first time in history, we can build a building that truly showcases what work we do,” Vasquez said. “Here we don’t have the ability to walk into a single location and see what’s happening, and [the new building] will provide an opportunity to share resources, share ideas and be more collaborative.”