KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Key planning decisions necessary to move forward with building the state-of-the-art Valley Dining Center were presented to the Western Michigan University community during an informational session Sept. 15.
During the event, representatives from SmithGroupJJR, the Detroit-based firm selected as the project architect, revealed the final direction for the placement and internal and external design character of the dining center.
The direction takes into account comments expressed by members of the WMU community on surveys and in focus group and public input sessions, as well as the University's goal of having the new facility achieve at least silver-level LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The planned two-story, 67,000-square-foot building is intended to be an anchor destination in WMU's Valley Residential Neighborhood, or the Valley as the area is commonly called. It will be integrated with the surrounding natural wooded environment and serve all 12 residence halls in the Valley.
Valley Residential Neighborhood
More than 2,800 students live in this residential neighborhood, which includes three residence hall complexes of four buildings each and WMU's nearby Goldsworth Valley Apartments.
The halls are primarily home to first-year students, some of whom reside together in special living-learning communities that have an academic- or interest-based focus. The Valley I and II complexes have full-service dining rooms while the Valley III complex has a limited-service dining room.
WMU has a total of four residential neighborhoods on its main campus. These student communities have distinctive features inspired by their combination of academic services, social and cultural resources, residence halls, apartments and dining facilities.
Dr. Diane Anderson, WMU vice president for student affairs, says the neighborhoods are part of a long-term strategic plan to blend housing and dining needs with the overall educational goals of a new generation of college students.
For most students, Anderson notes, living on campus is the best way to become engaged in college life, form diverse social networks, and easily participate in academic activities and learning opportunities.
"Students who live on campus are able to develop strong social and academic connections, so they're more likely to develop a sense of belonging and achieve their educational goals," she says. "That's why we developed residential neighborhoods. They provide a seamless living experience; offer safe, vibrant living and learning environments; and are a unique home away from home that is intentionally designed to support student success."
Dining center design
The new dining center will seat about 1,000 guests. Although primarily serving students in the Valley I, II and III residence halls, it will be open to all WMU students, employees and visitors.
Designers of the building have been charged with two main tasks. First, create an iconic dining venue for potential students as well as a valuable amenity for WMU community members and second, design a site that will enhance pedestrian activity and safety while respecting the area's scenic features and ecologically-sensitive areas.
The new facility will overlook the Goldsworth Valley Pond and be situated on the north edge of Goldsworth Drive, just south of the Harrison-Stinson residence halls. Construction is expected to begin in late spring next year, with the facility opening in fall 2016.
The second floor will provide a restaurant style experience with numerous seating options to create a comfortable and social space for guests to connect with others during meals.
A variety of on-trend flavorful, healthy and fresh food choices will be served at nine distinct venues, allowing guests to select from Asian cuisine, home-style classics, pizza or pasta choices, Latin dishes, deli sandwiches and wraps, breakfast fare, a full grill menu, a salad bar that will include cut fresh fruit selections, and a full dessert station that will specialize in crepes.
In recognition of the growing number of students with food allergies and special nutritional needs, a unique venue featuring a pantry and food selections in an allergen free zone is included in the plan.
The ground floor will include a convenience store and cafe as a complement to the expansive dining choices on the upper floor. This retail establishment will offer snacks, light meals and beverages through the late-night period, in addition to a place to study or socialize with friends.
Janice Quakenbush, director of business operations in the student affairs division, notes that that when the new dining center opens, the Valley's existing dining facilities will be closed, freeing up space in all three of its residence hall complexes.
"Once the existing dining facilities are vacated, we'll be using a student-driven process to help guide the redesign of the space in a way that fosters involvement, community and engagement," Quakenbush says.
Details about WMU's evolving housing and dining environment are available on the Student Life website at wmich.edu/students/planning. Details about specific residence halls and apartments can be found at wmich.edu/housing.
Questions about on-campus housing and dining planning may be directed to Janice Quakenbush at firstname.lastname@example.org or (269) 387-2163.
For more information about the Valley Dining Center construction plan, contact David W. Dakin, WMU director of facilities management planning, at email@example.com or (269) 387-8543.
For more news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.