UMass Lowell, in the midst of significant change and rapid growth, recognized the need to modernize its largest dining facility to help it compete with peer universities and to create a hub on East Campus to foster increasing student interaction. The newly-renovated University Dining Commons now serves over 3,000 meals each day in a state-of-the-art dining venue featuring on-demand food preparation at eight new food stations.
The design team unlocked the hidden potential of the awkward 13,000-sf footprint, reconfiguring it to improve sight lines, traffic flow, and natural light levels. This included replacing portions of the original exterior precast panels with large corner windows which also provide views and visual connections to the campus and Merrimack River beyond. The highly-efficient new layout intersperses food stations with an expanded 650-seat dining capacity in a way that created a tremendous variety in seating options, complementing the ever-changing daily cuisine choices.
In addition to accommodating students’ daily preferences for group size, the design team created “special places” that range from front row seats at the food stations, to a glass-enclosed TV function room, to a quiet fireside coffee-house. This dynamic, restaurant-like setting provides the perfect backdrop for campus dining experiences that UMass Lowell hopes will linger in students’ memories for a lifetime.