Dining Hall may replace Wingnuts

Wingnuts will close its doors what may be the last time this December in order to accommodate Tech’s newest dining hall at the North Avenue Apartments. The Quiznos and EastSide Market in the same location will also close so that construction of the new dining hall can begin over winter break. As of now, there are no immediate plans to find alternate space for any of the current retailers as of yet. Construction crews are slated to begin selective demolitions sometime in the spring and the facility will be in operation for fall of 2011.

Talk of a North Avenue Dining Hall has circulated ever since Tech acquired the complex from Georgia State in 2007. After a massive facilities and conditions assessment, a master plan was created for the North Avenue Apartments Complex (NAA) according to Howard Wertheimer, the director of the Office of Capital Planning and Space Management (CPSM).

“After we did the master plan and surveyed the students who lived in the North Avenue Apartments, we found out that a third of them subscribed to a meal plan,” Wertheimer said.

It was determined at that time that a new dining hall would need to be specifically designed and constructed. Roughly two years after its conception, a plan for the new dining hall has come up for consideration. The result is expected be a 20,000 square foot state-of-the-art dining facility with enough seats to feed roughly 300 students at any given time.

Tech is looking into ways to get students the foods they desire during many different times. According to Wertheimer, the new dining hall may have a 24-hour component. Ideas have been proposed looking into expanding BuzzBy’s retail operations into dinner and late night service.

“By the start of spring term we want to have a very robust delivery system,” said Rich Steele, the Director of the Student Center. “We would want to use other retail services on campus: wings from either Jackets or pizza from Pizza Hut.”

Along the lines of dining, students should see a reduction in wait-times at current dining halls once the new hall is opened in the fall of 2011. According to Steele, Brittain is currently overcrowded and is serving somewhere around 20,000 meals a week, a figure well over its intended usage.

Students offered a mixed perspective on the proposed changes.

“I see the importance of putting in a dining hall at North Avenue for the future classes of students,” said Ed Miskowski, a fourth-year INTA major. “But at the same time, considering we live right above where the future construction is going to be, it is going to be a major inconvenience, especially considering that we lived through last year’s [construction].”

In response, space planning intends to address this student concern in the near future.

“We’re sensitive to the previous work,” said Wertheimer. “We’re trying to come up with an appropriate plan.”

“I like having Wingnuts and Quiznos as a change, because Brittain is right there,“ said Rohit Bhatia, second-year BIOL major. “Now if there are two dining halls, then it’s not really a change, unless [the new one] is a lot better.”

Space planning representatives and others involved directly with the project, like Steele and Wertheimer, don’t expect it to be just another dining hall. With a projected budget of ten million dollars and a construction budget of $7.5 million, the new dining hall will attempt to emulate and innovate from the successes of recently built dining halls at other universities. Over the past several years, Tech has been looking at some of the nation’s highest ranked dining halls for ideas.

“We’re going to pull from the best of everything we’ve seen,” Steele said.

In this case they hope to include the newest, most energy and mechanically efficient equipment. In addition due to the limited space, there won’t be much room for a large kitchen. As a result, a large portion of the food will be prepared fresh, directly in front of students.

Wertheimer did note that space planning and the administration recognizes what the loss of Wingnuts and Quiznos represents to many students.

“Students have expressed concern about the service that Wingnuts provides to the student population, and Auxiliary Services and Sodexho are meeting with student groups, and we hope they will be able to fulfill that niche,” he said.