New dining facilities put more choices on students’ plates

When the golden arches arrived, not many happy meals were sold.

“We received complaints from students when a McDonald’s was built in the Commons,” said Dan McDonald, assistant director of business services. “Students complained about the lack of food variety on the campus so we removed the McDonald’s.”

Ever since 2001, when the McDonald’s was removed, VCU has made a priority of providing students with a wide array of food choices and enhancing the dining facilities.

In order to do this, VCU is in the process of building the Shafer Court Dining Facility, a new dining hall next to the Hibbs Building, the existing dining hall.

VCU is also enlarging the Student Commons area to incorporate four different dining areas that will be “very similar to a contemporary mall food court,” McDonald said.

“We are building a Chick-fil-A, a Tex-Mex, a deli and a sushi restaurant,” said Brian Ohlinger, associate vice president of facilities management.

The Commons project is scheduled to be completed by August, just in time for fall classes to begin.

Paul Dumond, a senior at VCU, is happy about the new facilities.

“I remember a few years ago they had the Chick-fil-A,” he said. “I’m glad they are getting it back.”

These changes are not only the result of complaints from college students, but also the increased on-campus enrollment at VCU.

According to an article in the July 21 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, close to 4,000 students will be living in campus housing this fall, which is one-third more than three years ago.

Officials say the new Shafer Dining Facility is desperately needed.

“The current dining facility is too small, and it is also located in an academic building,” said Ohlinger.

The construction of the Shafer Dining Facility, which got its name from its location in Shafer Court, is an $18.2 million project.

The addition of a new dining hall won’t affect tuition rates because it is self-supported.

“The facility is paid for by users of the facility. Over the course of 20 years the dining hall will pay for itself,” Ohlinger said.

Construction of the two-story facility began in February. It was designed by Hanberry Evans Newill Vlattas & Co., an architectural firm based in Norfolk that has designed structures for other colleges and universities in the mid-Atlantic region.

“The second floor seats 800 and is for students who live in the dormitories and eat regular meals at the facility,” Ohlinger said.

That floor will offer students seven different food options, prepared by order at each of the seven islands.

Unlike the second floor, the first floor is mostly a “grab and go,” said Ohlinger.

“The first floor offers ready made food, bagged products, a cafe and a Subway,” he said.

The Shafer Court Dining Facility is expected to be complete in the spring or summer of 2004.

“I think that it is great that they are getting a new dining facility,” Ashley Hutchinson, a senior at VCU said. “It will definitely add an appeal to VCU.”

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