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The Hatch will reopen this semester as a multi-purpose space

(Collegian File Photo)

If you ever wander to the bottom floor of the Student Union, you’ll notice a large room littered with stacked chairs and scattered tables. It serves as little more than a graveyard for what used to be the Hatch, a retail eatery for University of Massachusetts students until it closed in 2014.

After spring break, however, the Hatch will reopen as a place where students can meet, study or grab a bite to eat, according to Student Government Association President Anthony Vitale.

Vitale, who helped put the project in motion, said several tables, chairs, lounge areas and cubicle breakout rooms with whiteboards will border the room’s perimeter, while an open space will be left in the room’s center.

“The Hatch project stuck out to me because it is a real way the student government can improve the lives of students on a daily basis,” he said.

Vitale said reopening the Hatch is a way of offering more space to students on campus.

Since the room was originally designed to serve a food-related function, the space’s code still requires a food-related function to occupy the space. This means a retail dining location will occupy a corner of the roughly 9,000 square-foot room.

Vitale said its function is still undecided, but it will mirror the Integrative Learning Center’s cafe. It will first be run by Auxiliary Services, but Vitale said student businesses will be offered the chance to take over at a later time.

Unlike the previous layout of the Hatch, the renovated version doesn’t have a specific purpose. Students can use the breakout rooms to study in groups, gather in the open space to hold meetings for clubs or eat at the dining location.

Vitale said no major construction will be required to reopen the Hatch. Temporary walls will be erected along the sides of the room to cover the Hatch’s former food stalls, but no permanent walls will be torn down.

Some furniture for the room will be provided by Lexington Group Inc., while other furniture already on campus will be used in the Hatch, according to Vitale.

Director of Design and Construction Management Thomas Shaw said small amounts of non-friable asbestos is present in the adhesive material under the room’s floor and the adhesive material in the area of the cafe will require abatement as a safety measure.

“This abatement effort is required to add a level of protection to the workers that will be doing the floor repair. This product does not pose a health hazard to the general public,” Shaw said.

Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Andrew Mangels said the project is rather inexpensive. He didn’t give an exact cost of the project, but said it will be financed through the administration’s capital budget.

Vitale said he couldn’t offer a set time when renovations will begin, but clarified the Hatch will reopen sometime after spring break.

While working with registered student organizations and clubs as the SGA’s secretary of finance last year, Vitale realized how dire the need for space was. Each time he met with groups, more space was requested.

Vitale campaigned to reopen the Hatch when he ran for president last spring, and started working toward achieving that goal last semester.

He worked with Mangels, Shaw and others last semester to develop specific plans for the room.

“I think it’s been a great collaboration with the students, and I’m excited to get the Hatch open,” Mangels said. “The SGA and I share a vision of the Student Union being as used and vibrant as possible.”

Mangels explained in an email that he expects the cost to be approximately $200,000, mostly for furniture and equipment. About half will be funded from the campus capital budget and half from auxiliary enterprises and retail dining.
Vitale said this project is an interim renovation while talks about updating the Student Union are underway. Vitale is a part of a Student Union task force that is developing solutions to renovate the building.

Updating the building is a few years out, but he added preliminary designs have been made.

Jack Martin can be reached at johnmartin@umass.edu.

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