Wilkerson renovations revealed

A sketch of the proposed renovations to Wilkerson dining center that was recently released. Rendering courtesy of JLG Architects.

Students eating in Wilkerson Hall may have noticed a display of renovation blueprints near the dining center entrance.

The designs are from the renovation committee, which has made progress since the conceptual updates last October.

“The designs are very close to being final, but not yet,” Director of Dining Services Orlynn Rosaasen said. “We are at about 50 percent progress with the design details.”

Rosaasen and the rest of the committee have solidified the function of every space and the layout of all parts of the building. They are still deciding on furniture and interiors, such as colors, ceilings and lights.

While the committee does not have any new public informational meetings planned, it will be asking for students’ input on the interior sometime before the end of the semester. The input is needed before construction starts this summer.

“We will be closing Wilkerson at the end of the spring semester to start demolition,” said Rosaasen. “That will go through late summer when we start construction for the new addition.”

Construction will be completed in two separate phases so that parts of the complex can still be utilized by students.

The first phase will include a new addition, lower level and one-third of the upper level. The other two-thirds of the upper level will still be used for breakfast, lunch and dinner while that takes place. When the first

phase is completed, a new dish room and three serving platforms will be available for use while the second phase is constructed on the remaining two-thirds of the upper level.

The committee is still deciding exactly how to run services during construction.

“We are still finalizing everything, but, this summer, our services will be moved to Squires,” Rosaasen said. “Next fall, late- night and weekend services will probably be at Squires. This is to avoid troubles when there are power outages or other issues when we’re there constructing.”

Another factor subject to change with the project is the price. The committee has been given $29 million for the renovations, but it does not plan to use all of it. Rosaasen assures students the money is secured for the project and prices for meal plans will not have to increase to cover the costs.

Most students are eagerly awaiting the renovations because Wilkerson, built in 1969, is outdated. They hope to see a more modern style similar to Squires Dining Hall.

“Wilkerson is boring. Squires is much more visually pleasing,” said UND freshman Christian Feldmann, who lives in Brannon Hall within the Wilkerson Complex.

Chance Dickman, a freshman who also lives in Brannon Hall, appreciates Wilkerson’s convenient location near his dorm, but agrees that changes are needed.

“When you walk in, it feels like you are in the 80s, with the carpet and chandeliers,” he said. “They need to renovate the look because it is meant for an older generation. Also, everything is so spread out — they should close it up a little.”

Orlynn Rosaasen explained the new seating layout will eliminate wasted space, while still accommodating the amount of seats needed.

“There is a lot of wasted space in the current facility, and we will no longer have that,” she said.

Many of the plans that were simply ideas last fall are now being finalized. There will be new additions to please students,  including a coffee shop, counseling offices, a stage and sound system for events, gaming stations and glass windows for natural light. A much wider variety of foods will be available in the dining center: Brazilian churrasco BBQ grill, rotisserie, a large salad bar, international food, pasta, home cooking and more. Existing services like mail and to-go food will remain, but will be revamped along with everything else.

“I think the upstairs area with a stage and glass windows for seeing outside sounds like it will be really cool,” Dickman said. “It seems like Wilkerson will be a mini-Union, which will be great for students.”

Emmy Erbes is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].