Commons to see renovations

Commons to see renovations
The main floor of the Commons will be renovated to include a more open floor plan with additional seating.

By this January, the lower level of the Morrison Commons could begin renovations to expand dining options, enlarge the seating areas and rework the exterior facade.

The renovations, which are still pending Board of Trustee approval and are subject to change, aim to maximize space utilization, add dining options and modernize the building.

According to President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, funds for the Commons renovations came from a combination of a $5 million bond sale and donor gifts. Leveraging the two together, the Commons will undergo renovations one phase at a time, she said.

Students can expect renovations to begin in January 2023.

“This could take 18 months, but it’s within the realm of possibility that this can be completed by fall of 2023,” Herseth Sandlin said.

Phase one will take place in the lower level of the Commons and focus on expanding food vendors and creating seating areas.

The dining options currently at the Huddle will not change, but the university will bring another food vendor to campus. According to an email sent by Augustana’s CFO and executive vice president Shannan Nelson, Chick-fil-A will be the newest vendor.

Nelson declined to comment on the announcement by the publication date of this article.

Additionally, Ole’s Outlet — Augustana’s new spirit store — will replace the Huddle seating area.

Starbucks will also remain in its current location, but it will increase its lounge area.

“The Starbucks exterior will be expanded to the location of the dining hall exterior,” Blackburn said.

This expansion will take up the space under the Commons’ overhang, and the current outdoor seating area will become an interior lounge space.

Blackburn also said that Starbucks will add a walk-up window for use in the spring, summer and fall months. The window will allow students to skip long lines by ordering ahead from their phone and picking up their drink on their way past the Commons.

As part of the renovation, Campus Safety will move to another on-campus location. According to Blackburn, Campus Safety needs more office space than the renovated Commons can provide.

Until the university makes a final decision, Campus Safety will temporarily resume operations from the President’s House located next to Kirkeby-Over Stadium on the corner of 37th Street and Grange Avenue.

In order to create open space, the student mailboxes currently located in the Commons will move to the Nelson Service Center. According to Rick Tupper, the associate vice president for campus safety and logistics, that building will also undergo renovations to accommodate the mailboxes.

With the relocation of the spirit store and mailboxes, the lower level of the Commons will switch to an open floor plan.

According to Blackburn, this common space will alleviate some stress for the dining hall and make it easier for students to connect with the offices of Student Engagement, Student Life and the Student Success Center.

“Having a central location on campus is premiere in my mind to make sure that students can study, eat, mingle and have peer-to-peer relationships,” Blackburn said.

It is still unclear what the renovations will mean for the Back Alley. Options to preserve the event space, such as adding a partitioning wall, are being explored. There may also be a food vendor relocated to the Back Alley’s bar, but the university has not made a final decision.

“My focus is dining, but also my focus is student programming too,” Blackburn said. “I don’t want that to be forgotten. That’s the piece to the puzzle we are trying to figure out.”

Blackburn said these renovations are taking place for the betterment of students’ experience and that he is advocating for student voices while these plans are being discussed.

While these details are still subject to change, the university expects to finalize the renovation plans before the end of fall.