Despite original plans, Derby Dining Center to close for renovations in March

Derby Dining Center will close for the spring semester following spring break. The last meal served in Derby will be dinner Friday, March 6, 2020. (Jordan Koster | Collegian Media Group)

Students should make alternative meal plans after the Derby Dining Center closes March 19. Construction originally scheduled to happen over the summer will begin two months early.

The renovations include a new entrance, a single stairway and a more open floor plan to allow students to see across the entire second floor.

Derek Jackson, director of Housing and Dining Services, said a previous plan anticipated closing the building for a year beginning in the summer.

“We looked at shutting the building down completely for an entire year,” Jackson said. “We were talking about summer, year, summer. We started scaling back to say, ‘This is what we can get done and here’s the time window we can get it done.'”

Finances also affected original renovation plans to give the entire dining center an update.

“As our budget and reality hit, we started scaling back,” Jackson said. “Originally, it was going to be a $32 million, total renovation of Derby. What we boiled it down to was a $16 million, half the building being inside renovations. So, as we started peeling back our project … $12.5 million [would be spent] on actual construction costs.”

He said Housing and Dining wanted to use a single summer, but certain obstacles made renovations impossible in that time frame.

“Once we touch the building, we have to bring it up to code,” Jackson said. “We’re not in code now — we were grandfathered in. The biggest variable is the sprinkler and fire alarm systems, which has to be laid through the entire building.”

The building must be unoccupied during implementation of the sprinkler and fire alarm systems.

“As we looked at what schedule we’d need, the summer was not long enough,” Jackson said. “Summer is 90 days, and that wasn’t going to be long enough for our contractor and subcontractor to come in and do the sprinkler and fire alarm systems.”

Jackson said careful consideration went into making the decision to close the dining center.

“In the spring semester, we have students graduating, students leaving for internships, et cetera. We’re lower occupancy than we are in August,” Jackson said. “Those students have been here for seven months; they have a better sense of where they’re at, what’s available. But in August, you come in with a brand new group of students, and they would have no understanding of what’s available on campus, how to catch the shuttle over to Kramer, where Van Zile is at. We sort of chose the experienced group of students.”

Housing and Dining Services plans to create accommodations for students affected by the closing. Shuttles across campus will run more frequently. Van Zile Dining Center will have additional hours, and students will be warned of the closure in advance to ensure a smooth transition in the spring.

Derby will reopen for the fall 2020 semester.