East Halls

Housing and Foods Renovations Slated for University Park

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Housing and Food Services facilities at Penn State University Park will continue to see major improvements in 2016, including construction of two residence halls and renovation of a dining commons. In the first phase of a 13-year, long-term building plan, East Halls and North Halls will each gain a new residence building and one residence hall will be renovated, and food services in Findlay Dining Commons will be updated and expanded.

Among the amenities in the new residence halls will be air conditioning, public kitchens, seminar rooms, quiet study lounges, music practice rooms, and meditation rooms.

Student rooms will feature modular furniture that can be adjusted and rearranged--a major change from current residence halls. "Right now all of the furniture except for the student's chair is locked in place," explains Conal Carr, director of Housing Operations at Penn State University Park. "In the 1960s, when residence halls were being built throughout the country, the government was subsidizing some of the costs. Anything attached was considered part of the building and eligible for subsidization, so they attached everything they could."

Student lounges will be designed to let in plenty of natural light and will include areas called Knowledge Stations, where students can connect their laptops to a large TV-screen monitor for collaborative work.

Each new building will feature a cluster of private bathrooms on every floor. "We know that students want increased privacy with enhanced amenities, and this bathroom arrangement contributes to that," Carr says. "Students get the privacy they want, but they're still getting out into the hallway, not staying behind their own door--and that enhances community."

Findlay Dining Commons will gain a two-story atrium, and the second floor will feature a mix of all-you-care-to-eat stations and retail food areas such as a salad station, pizza, Asian, deli, and sushi. An allergen-free station will offer gluten-free options as well as selections free of other common food allergens.

On the ground floor, the space where The Big Onion and Good to Go are currently located will be expanded. "The convenience store will become essentially a grocery store, growing from 540 square feet to just a tick over 3,000 square feet," says Jim Richard, interim director of Food Services at Penn State University Park. The food services options on the ground floor will serve breakfast all day, as well as burgers and cheesesteaks. A new full-service coffee shop, featuring Seattle's Best coffee as well as a selection of desserts and baked goods, will round out the ground-floor options.

Two private dining rooms that students can reserve for special meetings and functions will also be available on the ground floor.

Food services at Findlay will be open from 7 a.m. until midnight 7 days a week, and seating areas on both floors will be open to students 24/7. "Even when food services are closed, students can use the space," says Richard.

Ground breaking for the new residence halls is scheduled for January 2016, with a targeted completion date of August 2017. Food services renovations to Findlay Commons are slated to be completed by January 2017. Eventually, all buildings in East Halls and Pollock will be renovated as part of the long-term plan.