A multi-million dollar project at WCU will result in a new five-story mixed usage building, housing dining services on the first two floors along with academic departments and classroom/lab space on the top three floors. The building is currently called the Commons and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.
The nonoperational heating plant and Speakman, located in D-lot in front of Lawrence, will be demolished helping to make room for the Commons, which will become a 177,000 square foot building. By comparison, this is larger than the Francis Harvey Green Library, which is 143,000 square feet.
There are also plans for a new parking garage to be built in between Lawrence Center and the Student Recreation Center.
The dining portion of this project will be paid for through the Dining Auxiliary budget, which is the entity that oversees the Aramark contract, while the upper three academic floors will be paid for through University funds. The project will be designed by Stantec Architecture firm.
Dr. Thomas Purce, the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, and Kathy DiJoseph, the Assistant Executive Director for Facilities Design and Construction, are two of the campus officials leading the project.
This past year, they consulted students about what they would like to see in the new dining hall through focus group discussions and opportunities to all students passing through Lawrence and Sykes Student Union to share their opinion.
Lawrence Hall has been operating full scale since the early 1960s, according to Dr. Purce. It has been renovated several times, but due to declining conditions of the infrastructure, it is due for a full replacement.
The ground floor of the Commons will feature a large marketplace, which Dr. Purce describes as “more of a Wegmans, less of a Wawa.”
The marketplace will tentatively offer a variety of options, such as sushi, rotisserie chickens, hot/cold grab and go, fresh foods and more. Dr. Purce’s goal is for the marketplace to be open late each night.
In addition to the market and large catering kitchen, the first floor will also feature a classroom, a rounded lecture hall, a small place for students to get coffee, in addition to a large multipurpose assembly space to serve a similar purpose as the ballrooms in Sykes Student Union. The space can be dividable into three rooms seating up to 90 people in each or left as one large assembly room.
The daily board operation of the dining program will be located on the second floor with nice views of the surrounding campus, Dr. Purce explained. The new dining hall will seat around 1,000 people, as opposed to the 750 people Lawrence Dining Hall can seat now.
The dining hall will likely feature more visible, front-of-the-house cooking. The packaging and prep work will still take place in the kitchen, but many of the meals will be prepared right in front of the students.
It will not have the separation of Roman Kitchen and the Side Café that Lawrence Dining Hall has now, but instead will have more open space. One possible station, for example, will be a round grill that can be used for anything from breakfast to Asian food.
There will also be a café located on the second floor, which faculty and staff will use for lunch and the space will also be available for use by student organizations and other campus programs for special catered events.
Floors three through five of the Commons will house the Nursing, Nutrition, Health Sciences, and Psychology programs, including supporting classroom, faculty office, lab and research space.
This new building also affects Lawrence Hall. Lawrence Hall will remain functional until the day the Commons opens and at that time a remodel of Einstein’s will take place in an effort to improve speed of service. The Diner and the upstairs offices will remain in the building. There are no official plans for the rest of the building yet.
With the new building, Dr. Purce said, “This is going to be a whole different and exciting environment on this part of campus.”
Other upcoming projects on campus include an approximately $100,000 remodel of Starbucks in the upcoming year and a multi-million dollar remodel of Sykes Student Union in the next ten years.
Theresa Kelly is a fourth-year student majoring in English literature secondary education. She can be reached at TK780615@wcupa.edu.