Dining hall makeover among $7M campus upgrades

260

GORHAM — The University of Southern Maine last week announced plans to spend $7 million in improvements on the Gorham campus, including a $2 million makeover of the dining hall in the Brooks Student Center.

The dining hall renovations are being made in a partnership between the university and Sodexo, the giant international food services provider headquartered in France. Sodexo serves about 1,400 meals a day on the Gorham campus.

Last year, a change.org petition posted online by the Frustrated Students of the University of Southern Maine asked for dining improvements.

It read: “We are sick of the lack of options and healthy choices on the USM Gorham campus. We pay thousands a year for the same food everyday and food that does not meet the needs of those with allergies. We are sick of this lack of care for our hard earned money. We want a set up closer to that of the Portland Campus.  We want better food. We hope we are heard Sodexo.”

Tadd Stone, Sodexo general manager at USM, said in a press release that the plan is to “give students a flagship dining area.” 

“Everything that’s happening is because of feedback we’ve received from students,”  he said.

The renovation project is slated to begin in May and includes a health and wellness station with a salad bar and a made-to-order deli, a pizza station with a gas-fired brick oven, and a stir-fry kiosk. Expanded dining capabilities will also provide meals for students with allergies, and students will also have the option of creating their own meals with help of a Sodexo chef. The upgrade will increase the number of seats by 100 to 475.

Sodexo serves six of the seven campuses in the UMaine System, according to Dan Demeritt, spokesman for the university system. Service began in June 2016 and a $12 million annual contract ends June 30, 2021. “The contract provides for up to five years further in extensions, for a full potential contract term of 10 years,” Demeritt said in an email.

Nancy Davis Griffin, USM vice president for enrollment management and chief operating officer, said the improvement costs will not impact tuition rates.

She said the other $5 million in Gorham campus improvements include bathroom renovations at Woodward Residence Hall, a new generator and roof for Brooks and a new fire alarm system in Bailey Hall. 

Meanwhile, in a separate campus project in Gorham, the historical status of the art gallery building on the Gorham campus remains undetermined following a $500,000 renovation a few years ago. The art gallery is listed by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places.

The university last fall asked the Maine Historic Preservation Commission to defer restoration of some original window sashes while retaining its status.

“The commission has begun but has not completed its evaluation of the work that was done on the USM Art Gallery relative to the National Register status of the building. I anticipate that we will complete our evaluation in the next two to three  weeks,” Kirk Mohney, commission director, said, in an email to the American Journal Tuesday.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 780-9089 or email rlowell@keepmecurrent.com.

This rendering depicts the health and wellness station to be located in the renovated dining hall on USM’s Gorham campus.

The dining hall at the Brooks Student Center on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus will receive a $2 million makeover to be begin in May.