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Campus Housing and Food Services: A Progess Report

The UC Board of Trustees gets a progress report on the Housing and Food Services Master Plans, with the most dramatic results yet taking place this year.

Date: 2/3/2003 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre and Carrie Cochran

UC ingot   A hot breakfast buffet preceded the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 28 with selections ranging from light fare to a full plate of the traditional bacon-and-eggs or an omelet with fresh fixings prepared to order. Aramark Executive Chef Rosemary Pavinski presided over the buffet table, along with Aramark Senior Food Service director Omar Rayan, as UC Campus Services and Aramark served up one example of how the campus has been transformed by the Housing and Food Services Master Plans.

UC Housing Master Plan: Increasing Quality, Quantity and Variety of Campus Housing
The Board got a full progress report from James R. Tucker, vice president for Administrative and Business Services, and Steven Sayers, associate vice president, Campus Services. Tucker began with the 15-year, $151 million Housing Master Plan, starting with first results apparent in fall 2000. That's when Siddall Hall had 486 new units of modern bedroom furniture installed, replacing furniture from the 1960s. It was also around the time when student desks and chairs were replaced in Sawyer Hall, and many of the older residence halls got a good scrubbing, cleaning, painting and fixture upgrading, in addition to roof repairs and landscape installations.

Turner Hall

However, the most dramatic progress so far in campus housing came about last fall with the opening of the first new residence halls in more than 30 years. "Turner and Schneider Halls became the first residence halls to provide suite-style housing on campus," said Tucker. "The rest of the units are dorm or apartment-style. Students like individual living arrangements, and that's what we're looking at now. They grew up with their own rooms and they're accustomed to that."

Student approval of housing is rising along with the new residence halls. In an annual survey completed last fall by the Association of College and University Housing Officers/International, preliminary results show a 25 percent increase in their approval rating of UC housing services over the previous year, Tucker reported.

Because of student demand, additional suite-style housing was added to the Housing Master Plan. The student housing to be built on the top floor of the new Student Recreation Center will feature 224 suite-style units and is projected to open by fall 2005.




Suites are also coming to Scioto and Sawyer Halls, with a completely different look for the row of the "Three Sisters" beginning in fiscal year 2006. Morgens Hall will be demolished, Tucker explained, and the other two, the industrial-looking Scioto and Sawyer Halls, will be gutted on the interior and undergo complete exterior facelifts. The conversions will amount to more than $20 million each for the two residence halls, with renovations starting on Scioto in fiscal year 2006 and Sawyer in 2008, when Scioto should reopen to campus dwellers.


Rendering of the renovation

By the time the Housing Master Plan is scheduled for completion in FY 2016, another old dorm, Dabney Hall, will be torn down. Daniels and Calhoun Halls will undergo tens of millions of dollars in renovations (starting with $900,000 in renovations to Daniels in 2004), and there will be 3,564 living spaces on campus, an addition of 440 spaces over the number available in the year 2000.

Off campus, Tucker said developer-led housing is proceeding in the Stratford Heights/Greek Village, with 630 apartment-style beds to open for occupancy by fall 2004, and the Calhoun/McMillan multi-building housing project, with more than 700 beds set to open in fall 2005.

Food Services Master Plan Update: Serving up Success
Across the nation, college cafeterias are answering the demands of the more sophisticated palate of today's student. They're no longer going to settle for a sampling from a metal tray that's been baking for hours under hot lights. They want better food, fresher food and more variety. The college cafeteria competition is so strong that it got a write-up in the Wall Street Journal, which reported that even the Ivy Leagues are sinking millions of dollars into recipes to win students back from the restaurant competition off campus.

At the meeting of the UC Board of Trustees, Steven Sayers, associate vice president for Campus Services, had the surveys to show how UC's strategy has been a success. Surveys from the late 90s show that not only were UC eateries struggling to bring in diners, but that dissatisfaction with meal plans - both with quality and their inflexibility - were motivating dorm dwellers to move off campus.

A reorganization in 2000 resulted in Campus Services, placing food services under one central organizational unit. That was also the year UC announced a seven-year contract with ARAMARK, one of the world's leaders in food services at educational institutions. More than one million dollars was invested to modernize the antiquated equipment in the dining halls.

"In that first year alone, surveys show student satisfaction improved 46-percent," said Sayers. By year two, the flurry in UC's kitchens - namely the Dining Pavilion - received national recognition with The Innovative Achievement in Auxiliary Services Award from the National Association of College Services.

But it was The MarketPointe, the "residential restaurant," that had the UC crowds digging into an exciting new concept in dining that started last fall. A $3.3 million renovation turned the old Siddall cafeteria into a site that put UC at the national forefront of food service, with its display-style, on-site food preparation. Meal plans were modified so that most students past their freshman year could choose the option of dropping the meal plan. Sayers says of the 50 percent of the dining plan students who took the option, 60 percent of them still stayed with a voluntary plan, which provided some meals in the dining halls rather than dropping the plan altogether.

"Preliminary results on our latest satisfaction survey give us a 40 percent higher rating on our quality than the industry standard, and some reaction is 150 percent more positive over last year," said Sayers.

Also under Campus Services, the Bearcat Campus Card has grown from 500 accounts when it first became available in fall 2000 to 10,000 accounts just two years later. By registering to turn their student ID into a Bearcat Campus Card, students can pre-deposit money and use the ID as a debit card to pay for meals, snack machines and laundry facilities on campus. The program has now expanded to 325 on-campus services (vending, retail, etc.) and 28 vendors who accept the card off campus. Sayers says starting out, the service was averaging deposits of $16,500 a month. That's now up to $300,000 monthly coming from the 10,000 accounts.

As for the future, Sayers says new facilities will be designed so that they're flexible and visible, and they'll be key contributor to the atmosphere of an exciting, bustling campus at the heart of MainStreet. Tangemen University Center will hold a 600-seat food court. The TUC bookstore will have a bistro with outdoor dining on the southeast edge of McMicken Commons, and an express store will be located in the TUC lobby.

Also on MainStreet, the Student Life Center will feature a double level cafe'‚ and a deli operation. The Student Recreation Center, to be completed by fall 2005, will feature a 400-seat Marche' residential restaurant, a "stadium view" restaurant overlooking the end zone of Nippert Stadium, and a convenience store that will be located close to the new Turner and Schneider halls.

"We will continue to respond to trends and student preferences and we'll be utilizing our temporary facilities as learning labs as we continue to strive for top quality and value," said Sayers.