The almost 40-year-old South Campus Dining Hall will undergo $60 million worth of renovations by 2017 to meet newly established codes for disabilities access, fire safety, electrical wiring and sprinkler systems, Dining Services officials said.
A consulting firm that inspected the building this month will issue a report with renovation recommendations in the next 30 days. After receiving the report, Dining Services can begin crafting its design plans for the project, a process that will likely take a couple of months, said Director Colleen Wright-Riva.
The primary focus of the renovations is to ensure the four-floor building is up-to-date with new building codes, but the dining area where students eat may receive a few cosmetic repairs as well, said Joe Mullineaux, Dining Services senior associate director. The changes outside of the dining area — other than adding some sprinklers — will be less noticeable, he added.
“Everything needs to be replaced,” Mullineaux said. “We want to make our investment in what benefits the [students].”
Funds for any renovation of the building must come directly from the department’s revenue rather than from the university’s general fund, Wright-Riva said.
The department looked at a larger plan five years ago to strip the entire building’s contents. Only the structure would have been retained, but after officials realized the project would cost $118 million, it was nixed, Assistant Director Bart Hipple said.
“We couldn’t afford that,” Wright-Riva said. “Neither department thought that was the best use of student money.”
Instead, officials have been working on a “case-by-case basis” to resolve issues within the building, Mullineaux said. Until Dining Services is able to save the $60 million for the all-inclusive project, the department will continue to take the piecemeal approach, Wright-Riva said.
“We will be correcting things as they occur,” she said.
The department has already repaired overused machinery, including a freight elevator, Wright-Riva added.
Since Dining Services is not the only tenant in the building — several student groups and The Diamondback use it — any renovation project is more complex, Wright-Riva said.
The project will likely cost roughly four times more than renovations made to 251 North, the all-you-can-eat dining hall in Denton Community. Because South Campus Dining Hall is much larger and serves multiple purposes, the project will take more planning and resources before officials can actually begin moving forward.
”I would anticipate student focus groups, I would anticipate hiring a food service consultant and architects to actually finish the planning once we get through the facilities aspect,” Wright-Riva said.
The renovations will help attract prospective students, Maryland Images tour guides said.
“It’s always a good sign to potential students to see our campus improving — especially when it’s done,” said Dan Zawacki, a senior English major. “We just … took prospective students to 251 North and they absolutely loved it there.”
Although the project is meant to benefit students, some said the $60 million price tag is too high and the department should instead explore other ways to spend that money.
“The South Campus Diner is in a good enough condition that it doesn’t need to be renovated at this point,” said Lindsay Hamilton, a junior secondary education major. “There are other things that they can do.”
Yet other students, such as Alex Peltzer, said renovations to improve the building’s safety should be a priority.
“I guess if it takes that much, then they should, but that seems like a lot,” the sophomore computer science major said. “It’s worth it if it makes everything safer.”