Upon their return from Spring Break, students on North Campus will have to change their daily routine with the closure of the Pierpont Commons Café for renovations. The former Commons Café will be overhauled and reopened as the Fireside Café in the fall.
Administrators and organizers of the café renovation met in the current Commons Café Wednesday morning for a “renovation kickoff,” showcasing some of the new offerings that will be present in the revamped location. Students and staff sampled food from the new café menu and examined computer renderings of the proposed interior design.
Commons Café is located on the second floor of Pierpont and is similar to a food court or dining hall. Pierpont’s lower levels include restaurants such as Panda Express and Quiznos.
University Unions Director John Taylor said the renovations are scheduled for completion before the start of the Fall 2014 semester. In the meantime, some vendors will move to the building’s ground floor and some food services will remain operational. While Taylor said the closure could present constraints during March and April, the plan allows a significant portion of the construction to occur over the summer, when the number of students using the Commons is much lower.
The Commons Café currently hosts a variety of community vendors, such as Ahmo’s Gyro and Deli and Jamaican Jerk Pit, which rotate during the week to provide more options for students than fixed venues. Taylor said this program will continue after the renovations.
Rackham student Isaiah Bailey, who is vice chair of the Pierpont Commons Board of Representatives and an executive board member for Building a Better Michigan, said the renovations seek to provide a variety of new food options while also making the new café a comfortable study space for students.
“Teaching-learning environments are not just about the physical spaces,” Bailey said. “(They) revolve around communities of scholars.”
The Pierpont renovation represents one stage of a series of campus-wide improvement projects, which also includes major upgrades and repairs to the Michigan Union, Central Campus Recreation Building, Intramural Sports Building and other campus locations. The University’s Board of Regents approved a $65-per-term student fee in April 2013 to fund the projects. Of the $173 million budgeted for these enhancements, $5.3 million will go toward the renovation of approximately 10,500 square feet of Pierpont Commons.
Students have played an active role in the campus improvement initiatives through Building a Better Michigan, a student campaign that prompted the regents’ decision to approve renovations. LSA senior Jacob Light, co-chair of BBM, wrote a viewpoint for The Michigan Daily urging students to take responsibility and advocate for their own needs on campus.
“We want to give students a venue to work with the University to guarantee that our tuition dollars are spent to satisfy our needs,” Light wrote.
Engineering sophomore Mauricio Guzman said he spends the majority of his time on North Campus, but rarely visits the Commons Café. After viewing plans for the Fireside Café, he said he felt it would provide a better option for students.
“I think having a different variety of food will be a nice new option compared to the usual U-Go’s,” Guzman said.
Guzman added that it was important that the new space serve its dual purpose as both a dining and study location for students.
“If you can incorporate both, it’s really ideal for students.”