IUP officials on Friday broke ground on a new food court, the first phase of a $37 million overhaul of campus dining facilities and a project that ushers in a new round of major construction at the university.
Dubbed Crimson Cafe, the food court will sit off 11th Street, next to Stapleton Library. It will be able to accommodate roughly 400 students and will offer fare from national and regional restaurants. It’s set to open in the fall of 2014.
Addressing an audience of students and staff who attended Friday’s ceremony, President Michael Driscoll and other officials said the food court will enhance campus life.
Driscoll said he worries that students lose something when they socialize through electronic means instead of in person. The caf￩, however, will give students a place to congregate.
“I think part of our goal in higher education is to educate inside of the classroom and out of the classroom. And social interaction is a key component of that education as they go forward,” he said.
“Providing a warm and inviting atmosphere so close to an academic hub will go a long way toward facilitating that great interaction we want all our students to have,” he said.
IUP Council of Trustees Chairwoman Susan Delaney said the food court certainly will complement academic life on campus.
“Its importance is not confined to dining,” she said.
Construction of the food court is the first step in a project that includes a top-down renovation of Folger Hall and the shuttering of Foster Hall, which will be replaced with a new building opening in 2016.
Officials have said the project is being driven in part by demand — they anticipate a 15 percent increase in the number of students who sign up for a meal plan. Officials also said there is demand for dining facilities more centrally located and easier to reach from all areas of campus.
Construction of the food court isn’t the only project on the books for this fall.
In October, the state Department of General Services is to commence construction on a new building to house the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
That building, expected to cost $37.1 million, will sit along Grant Street, next to Sutton Hall.
Construction bids were due at the end of July and are being tabulated, said Mark Geletka, associate vice president for facilities management.
Construction of the five-story building will force the closure of Grant Street. Driscoll said motorists and pedestrians alike should check IUP’s website for updates on parking and traffic restrictions.
The other big project on the to-do list is the development of a hotel next-door to the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex. Driscoll said the project remains on the books as the developers await word on whether they’ll receive financing for the hotel.