After closing for renovations last year, South Quad Residence Hall is preparing to re-open, ending one of three currently ongoing construction projects in the area, along with the Munger graduate dorm project and the West Quad Residence Hall renovation. Both other projects are expected to conclude in Fall 2015.
In a media tour Friday with The Michigan Daily, University Dining and Housing officials showcased several of the changes to South Quad, most notably the renovations to the dining hall, which have been the focus of the project, as well as several other structural changes. Construction is not yet completely finished on the building, but University Housing spokesman Peter Logan said the University is confident that it will be done in time for move-in Aug. 28 and 29.
In the newly renovated and expanded dining hall itself, the clear focus has been on variety both in terms of food and design.
The space ranges from semi-private dining rooms with low to the floor cushion seating, to tables made of wood reclaimed from bowling alleys near the grill station Wildfire, set to feature a different type of grilled cheese sandwich each day.
Further back are groups of bright pink chairs and televisions mounted on the wall adjacent to the Smoke station, which will serve food from an in-house smoker. To the left, there’s a clear machine, detailed in bright orange, set to squeeze fresh orange juice for a station, Toast, that will serve breakfast all day. Above it all is an exposed clay ceiling, one of the few unifying factors present.
Tom Smith, Michigan Dining associate director, said the goal was to make the separate stations distinguishable.
“They tried to create some little nooks for seating, tried to make it different,” he said.
The facility is based on the same micro-restaurant concept that is also present in East Quad. In total, South Quad’s dining hall will have 10 separate micro-restaurants, including a Latin-inspired station, a vegetarian station, an Asian-inspired station, the Madison Street Deli, a Mediterranean-inspired station and Finale, which will serve desserts. A chef’s area will additionally serve as a space for cooking classes and demonstrations.
The dining hall will seat 944 people at its full capacity, Smith said, down from an estimated 956, due to the removal of 12 seats to increase walkability of the space. 102 of those seats can be converted to general community space for the building, separate from the dining hall.
Smith said during the first year South Quad is in operation, he expects that the section will be used mostly for community space due to the closing of West Quad across the street, which will reduce the number of students who eat there. After West Quad undergoes renovations and reopens next year, it will no longer have a dining hall, meaning many students may choose to use their meal plans across the street at South Quad.
The facility will require 60 full-time employees, excluding top management, as well as up to 400 student employees. Similar to most other dining halls on campus, it will be trayless.
Smith also briefly touched upon the subject of crowding in the dining halls, which has been a reported issue in the newly renovated East Quad and recently built North Quad Residence Hall. He said with the opening of South Quad, he expects the number of people eating at campus dining facilities to spread out more, easing crowding concerns from the past few years. South Quad is the largest dining hall out of the new three — North Quad seats 190 and East Quad seats about 400.
“Maybe hindsight is 20/20,” Smith said. “But (South Quad) is what made sense to do last.”
He added that a highlight of South Quad dining is how easily it’s expected to absorb large crowds.
“The nice thing about this facility is that when we have a push of students — and we’ll have a lot of people in here — you won’t even feel it,” he said.
Along with the dining hall, several new community spaces for the building have also been a part of the renovation. Logan said over the past few renovation projects, Housing has typically found that when they ask for student input, the response is that students want more study space, a request which was incorporated into the South Quad changes in several areas on the main floor.
Other additions include a game room, gender-inclusive restrooms and more music practice rooms for the building.