Major renovations planned for DUC

Jessica Sasseen

Changes could be on the way for Downing University Center.

Big changes.

A plan unveiled last Friday would change the interior and exterior of DUC and improve Aramark Food Services in the facility.

The Board of Regents’ student affairs committee proposed a total overhaul of dining services by Aramark and the renovation of one-half of DUC’s exterior.

This proposal will be presented to the Board of Regents for final approval Jan. 21 in a meeting in Elizabethtown.

Under the proposal, contractors will begin this summer to transform the half of the building facing DUC South Lawn.

John Whitney of Taylor-Whitney Architects and John Osborne, associate vice president for Campus Services and Facilities, painted a picture of DUC’s newly proposed exterior for the board.

Whitney described enclosing the existing walkway around DUC with brick, limestone and glass to create an entirely new exterior and expand dining space by over 400 seats.

The brick siding and beige trim on the new facade will be coordinated to match the exterior of the new Media and Technology Hall.

Large windows will line the walls of the building, allowing natural light to stream inside.

“At night it will be lit up like a lantern, and you will be able to see the life of the building inside,” Whitney said.

Whitney’s firm created a model of the building which included a new glass doorway into the food court from the outside. This would allow it to remain open even when DUC is closed.

The entire renovation plan was set in motion last year when Western signed a two-year, two-phase contract with Aramark. The company pledged $3.5 million to the renovations, with a $2 million commitment solely to DUC.

The first phase was fulfilled by Aramark last semester with the renovation of the Garrett Food Court and completion of Java City. The second phase will include the revamping of DUC food services.

In order to begin DUC’s overhaul, the committee is requesting $1.2 million from Western’s reserve fund to pay for the renovation project. The money will be paid back in two years by the Auxiliary Services fund.

The money for that fund is raised through the sales of Pepsi on campus and through services like meal plans and dining dollars.

“You buy a Pepsi on campus?” President Gary Ransdell asked. “Then you’re buying a piece of a brick.”

Gene Tice, vice president of Student Affairs and Campus Services, said these renovations must be made this summer to accommodate the mandatory meal plan for freshman living on campus this fall.

Dining Services Director Barry Wells and Auxiliary Services Director Rob Chrisler proposed installing the Fresh Food Company in Topper Cafe. The Fresh Food Company, which has only nine other locations in the nation, prepares made-to-order meals, cooked in front of customers.

“The food is actually part of the show, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Wells said.

Tice said both students and faculty toured other schools looking for ideas to improve dining services at Western. Aramark made a commitment to invest the most money in improving dining services and creating the facility Western wanted.

“We want to be the best, and we want to be a leader among other schools,” Tice said.

With the installation of the Fresh Food Company, Western would join such schools as the University of Florida and Clemson.

There would be different stations for different types of food, much like the newly renovated Garrett Food Court. The Fresh Food Company would offer a variety of foods, including Mediterranean cuisine, traditional home-cooked meals, pasta and pizza.

Tice said the idea is to create the feeling of a restaurant by adding and improving the flooring, lighting, seating, ceiling and decor.

But in the food court, only the decoration will change. Pizza Hut, Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell and Grill Works will remain in the food court with expanded seating and an updated look.

Ransdell hopes the renovation project will spark student excitement much like DUC’s opening in 1970.

“It’s an exciting project,” Ransdell said. “And students will be shocked at what they see. This is just part of continuing the transformation on campus to meet the needs of students.”

According to Whitney’s presentation, work on the second half of DUC’s exterior would begin in the spring of 2004, finances permitting.

Reach Jessica Sasseen at [email protected]