Renovations to the Hampshire Dining Commons have begun, and as students complete the transition into the spring semester, they are learning to get by without a full second dining common in the Southwest Residential Area.
Hampshire closed at the end of last semester so that it could undergo a major facelift. It’s scheduled to reopen next fall. Until then, students in Southwest have to rely on other options, such as extended hours at the Berkshire Dining Commons, a Grab-n-Go and regular dining facility in the Hampden building, and two “Baby Berk” food trucks, which accept meal swipes during peak dinner hours.
Many students last week noticed a busier Berkshire Dining Commons, but also noted that they utilized the additional dining options in the area. The added adjustments, officials said, were made specifically to accommodate the inconvenience of the construction.
Josie Baily-Zona, a freshman political science major who lives in Southwest and regularly ate at both Hampshire and Berkshire, said she has noticed only a slight difference since the closing of Hampshire.
“Berkshire has been busy at its peak points, but I like Hampden and that ‘Baby Berk’ takes meal swipes at night. It’s actually easy to get, and Grab-n-Go has been good to eat too,” she said.
Alexa Vercollone, an undeclared freshman who also resides in Southwest, said Berkshire during dinner is “absolutely crazy.”
“You can sit in there but it takes a while to find a seat,” Vercollone added. “If you are in there with a large group you are never going to sit.”
But Vercollone did note that the other dining options aren’t bad.
“Hampden is pretty good,” she said. “I just think a lot of people don’t know about it. ‘Baby Berk’ is a good option too; it’s a little cold out and the lines are a little long.”
Undeclared freshman Clare Engel said she would like to see more crowd control at Berkshire during peak hours.
“I feel like they should find a way to have more seating,” she said. “The crowds cut down on your time to eat because you spend so much time waiting for food and a seat, but everyone is still getting their meals one way or the other.”
The demolition process has already begun on the top floor of Hampshire, according to Ken Toong, the executive director of UMass Auxiliary Enterprises. The final result is expected include a more spacious top floor, featuring a redesigned oval shape with an additional 125 seats.
“It will be a better layout in seating and concepts (and) as a result, will have an improved traffic flow and be more energy efficient,” Toong said.
“I think our students will enjoy the New England contemporary theme open concept design and with food made-to-order focusing on freshness, flavor and sustainability,” Toong added. “Students want to be in a place with a nice ambiance, dine and socialize. In many ways, the new Hampshire will rival Berkshire and provide our students with even more choices”.
Hampshire Manager Joseph Flueckiger echoed Toong in his confidence in the project, which is projected to cost about $15 million, adding that some of the many other features and improvements include “sustainable finishes throughout the dining commons, new dish return area and elevator access to the second floor.”
The project is expected to be complete in time to accommodate the new influx of students from the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Complex, which is expected to be finished by the fall 2013 semester.
“We feel confident that Hampshire will be able to accommodate the increase in demand for dining and seating,” Flueckiger said, adding that the seating capacity will total 650 seats—closely rivaling Berkshire Dining Commons’ 750 seats – upon completion. He said that there will be “space to increase this still more if the need arises.”
Brian Bevilacqua can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.