AMHERST, Mass. – With the Blue Wall dining area in the Campus Center closed for a $19 million renovation this semester, UMass Amherst Dining Services has expanded The Hatch eatery on the lower level of the Student Union and will locate the popular Baby Berk food trucks outside the Student Union during the busy lunchtime rush to accommodate the campus community.
When the renovation is complete in August, the former Blue Wall will be transformed into a state-of-the-art dining concept featuring 12 food stations serving freshly prepared, sustainable and healthy food. Meanwhile, interim measures will expand dining options to accommodate the campus community. Here’s what is available following the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday:
· The Hatch has been expanded and its hours of operation will be increased from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Options include Star Ginger Asian Grill and Pho Noodles, Café Spice Indian Cuisine, Pita Pit, Corner Deli, Chicken and Co., Famous Famiglia Pizza and UMac and Cheese. Breakfast will also be served every morning.
· The Pita Pit in the nearby Worcester Dining Commons will expand its hours of operation, offering fresh, made-to-order pita sandwiches and salads from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends. The entire Worcester Dining Commons will be open from 7 a.m. to midnight seven days per week. Grab & Go options have been expanded.
· Baby Berk and Baby Berk 2 will be positioned outside of the west entranceway of the Student Union and both trucks will accept the Your Campus Meal Plan (YCMP). At least one truck will be in this location from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. with both trucks there during lunch.
· The French Meadow Café and Concourse Grab & Go will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday in their present locations in the Campus Center Concourse.
· The U-Pub will retain its current hours of 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The expansion of The Hatch and the redevelopment of its surrounding areas on the lower level of the Student Union now provide seating for approximately 500 diners, while temporary seating in the Concourse Lobby of the Lincoln Campus Center will add up to 100 more seats during the nearby construction.
Demolition of the former Blue Wall is under way with construction of the new dining facility expected to begin in mid-February. The UMass Building Authority project is overseen by Cambridge architectural firm Bruner-Cott, and construction management firm Lee Kennedy of Quincy. Subcontract bids will be received and reviewed in the coming days and awarded early next month.
In an effort to create the best university retail dining experience in the nation, university officials reviewed top college and university dining facilities around the country to find the best features to integrate into their plans. Construction of the approved LEED-certifiable design should be completed by early August, allowing dining services to move in its new equipment and begin training employees in plenty of time for the start of the fall semester.
Throughout the design process, UMass officials consulted with and kept various student organizations informed, including the Student Government Association and UMass Dining Student Ambassadors. When finished, the campus community will find an entirely different dining experience waiting for them in the Campus Center.
“To better serve our customers and guests, the newly renovated eatery at the Campus Center, ready in August, 2014, will be a state of-the-art, next generation retail dining concept with a focus on serving freshly prepared, sustainable and healthy food,” said Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprises, the administrative arm that oversees campus dining. “It will have 12 food stations in a restaurant-like setting modeled after the Eataly in New York City.”
New options, including a Tamales station, People’s Organic Café and Bakery, fresh brick oven pizza and a full sushi bar, will join popular favorites such as Star Ginger.
Combining the spaces formerly occupied by the old Blue Wall and Burgers 101, the new design provides space for up to 900 patrons, a nearly 30 percent increase over the previous seating capacity of the Blue Wall.
The facility will replicate a retail marketplace, Toong said. Diners will find it much easier and faster to order and to receive and pay for their meals as a more open layout and individual registers at each dining station will alleviate the long waits and crowded atmosphere that hampered the Blue Wall, which struggled to accommodate the approximately 5,000 diners who visited daily. In addition, on-the-go diners will have expanded grab-and-go options at the new Concourse Marketplace and Blue Market.
Employees and staff of the former Blue Wall facility have been re-assigned during the new dining facility’s construction, and in preparation for its grand opening in the fall UMass Dining Services is currently running a contest via its social media channels to name the new facility, offering 100 YCMP swipes to the winner.
When the new dining facility is completed, The Hatch will be permanently closed and Student Affairs and Campus Life will be in charge of the space.