Dining Commons undergoing major renovations

(A glass wall was installed during the fall 2017 semester, dividing the commuter cafe and the Dining Commons. Photo by Amanda Martin.)

Dunkin’ Donuts will open on campus this fall, replacing the Starbucks in the McCarthy Center, said Ralph Eddy, director of Dining Services.

The change comes as a result of the “overwhelming” support the coffee chain received from students on surveys administered in the spring and fall semesters of 2017, said Eddy.

First-year student Alannah Weaver said she voted for Dunkin’ Donuts on a survey distributed by Dining Services last semester.

“I’m excited. I prefer Dunkin’,” she said.

Junior Cory Caraher said, “I’ve never had Starbucks because there wasn’t one in my hometown. But Dunkin’ Donuts has a lot more options, and so, I think if they have more options here it would be a good thing.”

Sophomore Sara Price said she’s in favor of the Dunkin’ Donuts because the current menu at Starbucks is limited.

“I like the pink drink at Starbucks and they don’t have that here. Dunkin’ also has better hot chocolate,” she said.

In addition to Dunkin’ Donuts’ arrival, the Dining Commons will undergo major renovations during the summer of 2018. The space will receive new furniture, and dining stations will be relocated to the perimeter of the space to accommodate more seating and reduce congestion during peak dining hours.

Eddy said this change will help “modify and enhance the traffic flow” in the areas currently occupied by the salad bar and allergy-friendly stations. The changes are expected to be complete before students return in the fall of 2018.

Eddy said the space is due for an update as the most recent major renovations occurred 15 years ago, in 2003. The kitchen’s most recent update occurred in 2005.

“The facility itself has definitely aged, and the University itself has actually grown considerably in that time,” he said. “Enrollment has obviously gone up considerably with the two new residence halls coming online.”

He added, “The complete look and feel of the place will change.”

In addition to updates expected in the student-occupied spaces of the dining commons, the kitchen will be renovated to include equipment that is more efficient in size and energy consumption.

Eddy said, “The kitchen itself still occupies the same footprint it did when the building was built in the `70s.”

According to Jeffery Hershberger, director of university services, the upcoming renovations are projected to cost $2.7 million.

The renovations that were completed prior to this semester cost $330,000. This cost includes the added tables and dining stations in the area previously occupied by the Framingham Food Study and Toasted, said Hershberger.

According to Eddy, 40 seats were lost in the commuter café during the initial renovations to make room for more tables and food stations in the Dining Commons. He said, to make up for that loss, additional seating was added in other areas traditionally dedicated to commuter students in the McCarthy Center.

“The University has added additional seating locations in the lounge on the third floor, the concourse area that’s outside the art gallery – new furniture’s been provided there – and also in Starbucks. All that furniture has been refreshed as well,” said Eddy.

Sophomore Kevin Guzman said, “I’m a commuter and I hate it.” He added because of the position of the glass wall that divides the commuter and residential cafeterias, the number of electrical outlets accessible from the commuter side has significantly decreased.

Senior Zach Pierce said when a friend of his emailed Dining Services about the reduced outlet access, they directed the student to go upstairs to the student lounge or pay to eat inside of the Dining Commons.

“It’s just creating more of a divide between resident students and commuter students,” said Pierce.

Sophomore Garrett Lien said, as a resident, he didn’t understand the change because he thought the commuter café was already “stuffy” before the size was reduced.

Eddy said the ongoing renovations occurring in the Dining Commons will eliminate some of the seating areas consisting of long rectangular tables with chairs. He said although these are efficient for seating a lot of people, they are not as popular as seating options such as booths.

Junior Rachel Bean said she preferred the new booth seating in the Dining Commons as opposed to the tables against the glass wall.

“It’s kind of like we’re sitting together with the people at the tables on the other side, but we’re separated,” said Bean.

The new area of the Dining Commons includes Magellan’s, a station where students can order omelets in the morning and made-to-order dishes such as noodle bowls during lunch and dinner, and UCook, a hands-on station where students can prepare their own meals.

Eddy called the new UCook station “incredibly popular with students.”

Sophomore Kathyuska Gaitan said, “I try to eat there if I don’t like anything they’re serving at the other stations.” She added the UCook station offers sauces she enjoys that are not used on other dishes served at stations with premade food.

Senior Marquise Bartley-Browne said the UCook station is a good option, but he would like it to stay open later than 7 p.m.

First-year student Nicolette Rivas said she likes the added space in the Dining Commons, but it would be better if students could enter through one of the glass doors that are currently designated as emergency exits. She also said another conveyor belt for dirty dishes would improve the area because students wouldn’t have to walk all the way to the other side of the cafeteria to deposit their dishes.

Junior Ashley Wight said she likes the UCook station when it doesn’t have a long wait.

“It takes like a half hour because everyone wants to use it,” said Wight.

She added, “The new booths and stuff make it feel less like a cafeteria and more like a casual sit-down place.”

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