Commons Renovation Plans Aim to Increase Capacity and Improve Food Quality and Variety

In the near future, Commons may serve better food, offer multiple seating options, and serve hamburgers and pizza at an adjacent grill. Last week, the Commons Planning Committee unveiled three draft proposals that outlined the different possible futures for Commons. The Committee brought forward three options for Commons renovation. In order of the extensiveness of the changes proposed, these proposals are a renovation-only plan, an intermediate expansion plan, and a large expansion plan. In the renovation-only plan, all of the dining halls in Commons would remain in their current state. The only addition, which is included in all three plans, is the expansion of the Ryley Room through the creation of a sunken terrace. This would allow the Ryley Room to fit around 400 people. The renovation-only plan also includes improving the quality of Commons food. This plan would require the moving of PA’s dining facilities to another location for nine months, a project estimated to exceed $1 million in costs. The intermediate plan suggests the building of a terrace off the Ryley Room, a South Addition, and an East Addition. The East Addition aims to provide seating for 320 people. The large expansion plan recommends the Ryley Room terrace, South Addition, and an East Addition that seats 450 people. In the two more comprehensive plans, Upper Right would offer café-style dining. The layout of the area would include armchairs and coffee tables, and the proposal also encourages the serving of higher-quality food. Lower Left would be converted into a Bistro, offering continuous snacks and beverages. Upper Left would become a multi-purpose room similar to the Underwood Room designed to accommodate the social needs of the school. Lower Right would intact but contain a different style of seating to include tables of different sizes and shapes. The South Addition would have a grill area serving hamburgers, pizza, and other fare similar to that offered in the Ryley Room. In addition, new meeting rooms for classes would be placed on the second floor of Commons. The café in Upper Right could also serve as a meeting place for more informal classes. The renovation-only plan is expected to cost $20 million at most, the intermediate $35 million, and the large plan $42 million. The Academy is expected to choose one of the three proposals within the next six months. PA expects to decide within the next six months which renovation plan to pursue. After a decision is made, intensive fundraising will begin. The Commons Planning Committee aims for the renovated Commons to be ready by the time members of the class of 2008 are Seniors. The Committee analyzed the data received from a Fall term survey to create the three different design proposals. The Committee consisted of Director of Stewardship David Chase, Dean of Students Marlys Edwards, Project Manager John Galanis, Instructor in Math and Flagstaff Cluster Dean Paul Murphy, Director of Commons Bob Noyes, Instructor in English Craig Thorn, and Director of Facilities Michael Williams. According to Mr. Williams, all of the proposals are designed to make “Commons more than just a dining facility.” Each of the three plans intends to preserve the character of Commons. In all plans, Commons’ windows and wood paneling will remain intact. Even in the second and third plans that aim to convert the East Side of Commons into an East Addition, the windows would not be destroyed but instead be adapted into entrances. Architecturally, the Commons renovations aim to blend in with the existing campus layout. The Committee is taking as their model the successful integration in the 1980s of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library into the school’s architectural scheme. The goal of the Commons renovations is to design a dining atmosphere that promotes variety and freshness. Most of the food options to be offered in the new Commons will be prepared in the dining halls in which they are served. This will ensure that the food served at PA is fresh and of high quality. In all of the plans the committee encourages the participation and constructive criticism of the students. Mr. Williams said, “We encourage students to get informed [about the renovations].” The Committee is considering holding a forum in which students can ask questions and make comments about the proposed plan. The Committee also intends to conduct another survey throughout Spring term and into summer.