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Ryan Johnson, Published June 12 2013

NDSU food court undergoing $800,000 remodel

FARGO – North Dakota State University’s food court in the Memorial Union is getting an $800,000 facelift, just eight years after a complete remodel of the space in the heart of campus.

Assistant Dean of Student Life Michael Harwood said the project, funded entirely with revenue made through student meal plans, is necessary to respond to feedback from diners in recent years who said the space in the lower level of the Memorial Union was too dark and had an awkward layout.

“The overall goal of the remodel is to make it more inviting for students and staff and faculty to be able to sit and enjoy their meal,” he said.

Harwood said the project, which started two weeks ago and is expected to be completed by mid-August in time for the fall semester, is necessary to respond to feedback and to meet a reality of the restaurant industry – the need to stay current and remodel frequently.

“It was finished in 2005, so it’s been eight years,” he said. “If you’re part of the food service area, you know that you’ve got to keep up to date and up to speed with students’ expectations.”

That includes replacing the wood chairs in the food court. While nice, he said the chairs are easily marked up by buttons on students’ jeans, and the replacements should better resist damage. The current tables will be reused, he said.

Another change is adding a new food vendor, Panda Express. It will be the first location of the Chinese restaurant chain in Fargo, Harwood said.

Five restaurants will return. They sell a variety of foods including pizza, burgers, hoagies and tacos.

He said the issue of “wayfinding” also will be addressed. The food court’s arrangement meant lines of waiting students could spill out into the dining area, and the flow of customers could be awkward or confusing at times.

A new half wall will more clearly separate the restaurant and seating areas of the food court, while still allowing the space to be used for other events on the evenings and weekends.

Lighting will also be improved to make the downstairs space brighter, addressing another concern he said has been brought up since the space opened in its current form in 2005.

Harwood said the project also includes updating signage on the six restaurant spaces, modernizing their look and getting ready to serve the campus community and public who visit the dining area for years to come.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587