Over the last couple of years, discussions have been made and rumors have been afloat about a possible facelift regarding the UMD Dining Center. This year, though, is the year these ideas and whispers come to life. Students, faculty and staff alike can expect major changes in the DC over the next few months. The DC project is a campus-wide project with a strong emphasis on student life. UMD Dining Services and Student Life board members made the dining center project a priority within the last year. The project is a completely self-funded project through Dining Services. Dining Services and Student Life hired interior designers and marketers from Architectural Resources Inc. and Ricca Design Studios to make some big changes. Both ARI and Ricca have plenty of experience working in culinary design.
The current layout of the DC has existed since the 1970s, and has not gone under any big revisions since then.
“The aesthetics are just a bit outdated,” Katie Hildenbrand, certified interior designer of ARI, said.
The project is still in the preliminary stages. ARI, Ricca and UMD Dining Services are closely working together in designing concepts and physical layouts that will benefit the needs of the students the most.
“There is no desire for the DC to win a design contest,” Corbin Smyth, UMD Vice Chancellor for Student Life, said. “We are redefining the whole program and redesigning the whole food service experience for students.”
Over the past few weeks, ARI and Ricca spent time in the DC working with staff and gathering student feedback.
“Major concerns involve traffic and congestion during dining hours,” Hildenbrand said.
To combat traffic and congestion in the DC, Dining Services and Student Life are looking at other universities, mall food courts, hospital cafeterias and other restaurants for design inspiration. Though nothing is completely definitive, focal points of the new DC blueprint include knocking out the interior walls, redesigning the entry, changing the tables from circles to squares, offering more of a food variety, and making more made-to-order stations.
“We have to make food fast,” Smyth said. “But at the same time, students can expect a more made-on-demand, fresher experience.”
Renovations will also include updating electrical, plumbing and air-ventilation systems.
The $2.75 million dollar DC Project is self-operated, meaning that the project is not run by a contract.
“This allows us flexibility,” Claudia Engelmeier, Dining Services Assistant Director of Administration, said. “Student feedback and suggestions really factor in to the design.”
The renovations, though, cannot be done with students filtering in and out of the DC. Students can expect the DC to be closed after spring break and re-opened on Aug. 22, 2015. During the academic school year in-between, students will eat in the Ballroom.
“We will do everything we can to keep the experience the same; it will be harder on the staff than the students,” Engelmeier said.
In the end, the inconvenience will be worth it. Improvements will be made both on physical and conceptual levels.
“The new DC will offer way more than it does now,” Smyth said. “The whole purpose of this project is to serve students better.”
BY AISLING DOHENY STAFF REPORTER