’53 Commons consolidates dining facilities
By Chidi Anyadike And Stephen Kirkpatrick, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The newly renovated Class of 1953 Commons — opening on Sept. 3 — will save the College approximately $300,000 in energy costs per year and will feature a variety of new dining options and social spaces, according to David Newlove, director of Dartmouth Dining Services. Newlove led an information session and tour of the construction site for a group of student leaders and staff advisors on Monday.
In addition to modernized decor, the renovated building will contain various types of seating — totalling 1,093 seats — including booths, chairs and stools in order to make the space more accommodating to a variety of students.
The renovated facility features a single, central service area that will offer a host of new food stations including a kosher station, a vegan and vegetarian station, a bakery, a “hearth” oven and a Panini and salad bar called “Big Greens,” Newlove said. In addition, an international food station called “Worldview” will feature guest chefs, he said.
The new dining hall will close by 8 p.m. each day, but will not reduce eating hours on campus overall, according to Newlove. DDS’s total hours will stay approximately the same, as Courtyard Cafe becomes a new late-night option.
“[Courtyard Cafe] will close at 12:30 a.m., which will be a great service to all those attending performances and events that the Hopkins Center hosts at night,” Newlove said.
The north dining room, previously known as Food Court; the south dining room, previously known as Homeplate; and several rooms upstairs will be available for student use after regular dining hours, according to Newlove.
A 24-hour basement space will open in January of 2012. Each dining room on the first floor will use foldable tables and chairs that can be stacked and moved to make room for student use.
A new stairwell has been added to the west end of the south dining room, which leads to a second-floor balcony that overlooks the food service area.
The second floor features substantial booth seating as well as a smaller dining room for group use.
Newlove expressed hopes that the central location of ’53 Commons and the ability for organizations to host events featuring alcohol — within the standards of SEMP rules — would encourage students to use the space for more than dining.
“There are student groups without physical spaces, and also many unaffiliated students who don’t have a place to hold events — this is what [’53 Commons] is for,” Newlove said. “It’s a place for students, not faculty and not staff, to meet together and socialize.”
Newlove said that student groups will be able to sign up to use the dining rooms from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. each day, after food service has shut down. The central food service area can be closed off while still allowing access to the dining rooms.
Ian Herrick ’13, who took Newlove’s tour, acknowledged that ’53 Commons was a bigger space than Collis, but said he was still apprehensive about the new facility’s ability to serve students’ social needs.
“It won’t be a comfortable hanging-out space for students,” Herrick said. “I’m not happy that I won’t be able to sit with friends who aren’t eating.”
Several key aspects of the new facility demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, Newlove said. 1953 Commons will use the heat produced by the air-conditioning unit to heat cold water for cooking food.
The new facility will also produce less trash because food will no longer be served a la carte and will be purchased in large quantities.
New technology called a “pulp-extractor” will grind up all food waste and paper products, extract the liquid from solid waste, and then place the solid waste into barrels that will be taken to a local compost facility, Newlove said.
The building’s windows will maximize natural light, and motion-sensored, energy-efficient light bulbs will be installed in all rooms, according to Newlove.
The Boston architecture firm Bruner Cott designed ’53 Commons after the College decided the most cost-effective solution to expanding dining facilities was to renovate Thayer Dining Hall, Newlove said.
Beginning in Fall 2011, all students will be on a version of the SmartChoice dining plan and will be able to swipe their Dartmouth I.D. up to three designated times per day to enter ’53 Commons, The Dartmouth previously reported.
Some students have expressed concern about the structure of the meal plan, fearing that the move away from a la carte will not fit with student lifestyles, The Dartmouth previously reported.
Newlove explained the switch to the SmartChoice plan as a way to provide all students, especially those on financial aid, with the choice of healthy food on a regular basis.
In what Newlove called the most important change from the previous a la carte system, the largest of the new meal plan options, SmartChoice20, will be covered by financial aid.
“The SmartChoice plan was created to be a solution to a problem we were having with students not eating, or not eating properly because they could not afford to go negative in DBA,” he said. “It’s really a moral issue and an issue of equity — students should never have to compromise their health or their diet. Across the board, and at all levels, all students should have the same opportunities and availability for good healthy food, regardless of their financial status.”