May 16, 2006

Housing, students convene on dorm plans

Housing officials convened with the New Residence Hall and Dining Student Advisory Committee last Friday to discuss further details surrounding construction plans for the new dorm and dining hall south of the Midway.

Richard Mason, director of Dining and Housing Services, and Sherry Gutman, deputy dean of students for Housing, Dining, and Transportation, expanded on preliminary information with a more detailed presentation of the University’s plans to construct and develop the new facilities.

“It will feature a lot more architectural detail [than neighboring Burton-Judson Hall],” Gutman said, adding that each room’s design is unique. “It’s not cookie-cutter plan,” she said.

With around 100 people inhabiting each of its nine houses, the 900-bed residence hall will stand 14 stories high at the corner of East 61st Street and South Ellis Avenue, accompanied also by a new dining hall to be built just next to it.

Placing an emphasis on larger public spaces throughout the residence hall, housing officials have adjusted floor plans to maximize space for students, their work, and their social lives, Gutman said.

Additionally, plans for an adjoining cafe and NSIT computing lab were outlined in detail.

“During daytime hours, the cafe will be much like a Corner Bakery, Panera Bread kind of venue,” said Mason, adding that late night options would feature grill items such as french fries, burgers, and pizza.

The café, which would remain open “almost 24 hours a day,” will also feature the usual grab-and-go convenient items, Mason said.

The new dining hall just across from the residence hall received much of Mason and Gutman’s attention.

With 80 tables to seat approximately 550 diners, the new dining hall’s “transparent” design would also feature outdoor seating and “lots of space,” Gutman said.

The new dining hall would run on an all-you-can-eat system like that of Pierce, and would contain the house tables for residents of both Burton-Judson and the new dormitory.

“The new dining hall will be built with a connection to the current dining hall where the ice cream is currently served,” Mason said. “The existing Burton and Judson dining rooms will remain, with some changes in flooring and the addition of air-conditioning, essentially the same as they exist currently.”

Mason and Gutman added that while Aramark will initially provide services for the new dining hall, the University will rebid the dining services contract when the Aramark contract ends in 2009, which could result in a different vendor.

Rebecca Schildkret, a third-year in the College and member of Student Government College Council, said that she was pleased with the dining plans, based on comments from fellow students for more vegan and vegetarian options.

“I was really happy to see the large variety of vegan options,” she said.

Gutman and Mason also outlined plans for better bicycle storage facilities open to various members of the University community. Gutman reflected on student and faculty input for improved conditions and more spacious bicycle storage area, to be shared by residents of both B-J and the new dorm.

While two parking garages will be built along East 61st Street to accompany the south campus construction projects, Mason and Gutman said that plans have primarily focused on keeping such costs as low as possible through alternatives like improved bike storage.

“We should build more classrooms and labs, and not parking structures,” Gutman said, adding that more bike storage will discourage students and faculty from driving to campus.

Gutman concluded with a rundown of the new facilities’ most updated construction schedule, with major work scheduled to begin next month.

“The building will be finished in segments, so that the first 650 beds will be finished in August 2008 to accommodate Shoreland students,” Gutman said, adding that construction on the remaining 250 or so rooms will be completed later in the 2008–2009 school year.