With sleek, stainless steel food stations, a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, modern lighting fixtures, and soothing gray walls, the Commons dining hall has been so completely transformed this summer that students may not recognize it.
The 44-year-old building has undergone a renovation that has converted it from a dark, 70s-era cafeteria to a light-filled, modern food-court-style dining hall with such amenities as a sushi “robot,” a meat smoker, and a state-of-the-art bakery.
Construction crews worked long hours to have the new Commons ready for its grand opening on Tuesday, Aug. 26. The renovation is one of several projects on campus this summer that have expanded the Architecture Department, renovated the Campus Store, and put a new roof on the Sports Center, among other projects.
See a gallery of photos of some of this summer's major construction projects.
At the Commons, students will find a W-shaped wall of windows lined with tables and chairs in a restaurant-like set up in the front of the dining hall. Modern lighting fixtures shaped like fishbowls hang in rows over new food stations. Students can sit at small tables, a long, communal table, or at counters, where they can perch on “University red” stools.
Each food station is equipped with stoves, woks, and other tools so food can be made in front of students rather than in a behind-the-scenes kitchen.
At the Asian station, employees will use custom gas-powered woks to make stir-fry while a sushi robot cranks out 250 sushi rolls an hour. At another station, a huge hearth oven will toast pizza, calzones, and flatbread. At the greatly expanded bakery, students will see items coming out of the ovens. In fact, the space that used to house the kitchen in the old dining hall has shrunk by 70 percent, said Bridgett Stapleton, Resident District Manager for University Dining Services.
There will also be an allergen-free pantry that students with peanut, shellfish, or gluten allergies can gain access to with a swipe of their card.
Meals will be served on china, rather than plastic, and daily menus will be displayed on LED screens. In addition, the dining hall hours and meal plans will be expanded.
Although the seating areas have been expanded by 90 more seats, the large space is broken up with walls and partitions to create smaller areas and make the space feel a bit more cozy for students.
“This is their living room away from the residence hall,” Stapleton said.
On the lower level of the Commons, the Hawk’s Nest also sports a fresher, more modern look with new carpeting and seating, neutral walls, and a modern, gas fireplace tucked in the corner.
Elsewhere on campus, summer construction projects have:
– Renovated the Campus Store, formerly known as the Bookstore, into a new modern space with gray walls and red accents. The store is now on one floor, rather than two, and has an exposed ceiling, new lighting, flooring, and display cases. New LED lighting fixtures and HVAC controls will also improve the store’s energy efficiency.
– Expanded the Department of Architecture into what used to be the lower level of the Campus Store. The newly constructed space will bring the graduate architecture program, previously housed off campus on Cottage Grove Road in Bloomfield, onto campus and includes studio space and a larger, more modern wood shop and fabrication lab.
– Put new roofs on the Sports Center and Mortensen Library.
– Renovated, modernized, and branded the first floor of Bates House, which holds the Office of Admission.
– Demolished the two red, barn-like buildings, including one known as the “Garret,” near the Hartford Art School. The undergraduate art studio that had been housed in the Garret will be moved into one of the Hartford Art School buildings.
– Modernized third- and fourth-floor bathrooms and renovated the lobby of Hillyer Hall.