North Texas Daily

New dining hall to replace the Kerr Cafeteria by 2020

New dining hall to replace the Kerr Cafeteria by 2020

New dining hall to replace the Kerr Cafeteria by 2020
March 01
12:00 2019

Construction on a new dining hall, which has a projected budget of $25.47 million and will feature two floors and retail shops, has begun and is expected to be completed in May 2020, according to UNT’s Division of Student Affairs.

Located on the east side of the Business Leadership Building, the new hall will be funded through auxiliary dollars rather than through funds from student tuition or the state.

Talk of a new dining hall came about when the university was originally looking to renovate Kerr Dining Hall, said Daniel Armitage, associate vice president of student affairs. He said that upon further inspection, it was decided that it would be more cost-efficient for the university to build a new dining hall instead.

“It was determined that Kerr was undersized for what was needed and that the renovation cost was prohibitive,” Armitage said. “It made better sense to build a new dining hall than renovate an older one. The new dining hall will have 750 seats, in comparison with Kerr seating a little over 400.”

In addition to having the first free-standing dining hall on campus, the area will also have retail shops where students can purchase food to alleviate congestion in the Union and other dining halls.

“At peak meal periods, the dining halls fill up quickly,” said Peter Balabuch, director of residential dining services. “The additional space will ease this concern, as the seating capacity is almost twice that of Kerr’s.”

Balabuch said the size of the new dining hall and retail area is not the only thing that will be different, as students can also anticipate differences in the dining hall’s menu.

“We will expand on our whole foods philosophy of campus dining — fresh ingredients, made from scratch, focusing on local ingredient sourcing,” Balabuch said.

One main difference between current dining halls and the new stand-alone hall is how and where the food is created.

“The sitting space is done very differently, as well as the food,” Operation Director Shohreh Sparks said. “Right now, [the] majority of the food that we prepare is [done in] the back of the house, but with the new location, the prep is in the back and a few items will be done in the back as well, but majority of the items will be prepared right there [in front of students]. Our equipment is in the serving lines.”

The two-story building will house multiple types of seating to allow students to have more freedom. The first floor will have food serving lines and more traditional seating arrangements, while the second floor will be full of a more secluded type of seating.

“It is kind of like a restaurant setup,” Sparks said. “There are areas on the second floor that is more private with soft seating that you can go and sit with your friends, and you’ll have lot of more privacy than in the middle of the cafeteria.”

As for the employees at Kerr Cafeteria, Balabuch said they will either “be absorbed into the new facility or one of the existing campus dining halls.”

Visual arts and design freshman Ashleigh Santle said she was skeptical of how the plan for Kerr Cafeteria to close after the completion of the new dining hall would pan out.

“I think it’s dumb since it’s already built, so I feel like it’s putting it to waste to close it,” Santle said. “It almost sounds like a second Union, which I don’t really think is needed. I just don’t know what they’re going to do with all of this [space] after they close it because you can’t really just make this into dorms. Maybe a bigger type of living space with TVs and a piano.”

As for what housing will do with the space from Kerr Cafeteria after it closes, nothing has been finalized and “the discussion is ongoing,” according to Associate Director for Housing James Fairchild.

Computer science senior Zachery Chambers said he could see how closing Kerr to open a new dining hall made sense for the university in the long run.

“It seems like UNT’s goal is to attract more, or better, students with all the construction they are working on,” Chambers said. “If that is their goal then they are doing the right thing. They are competing with the other universities in the area and better facilities will definitely give them an edge.”

Armitage said a name for the dining hall has not been decided, but it is under consideration.

“I think students will be very excited when they see the new dining hall,” Armitage said. “The new dining hall will be significantly different than any existing hall on campus.”

The hours of operation for the stand-alone cafeteria have not been decided yet, but will be as it gets closer to the opening. Kerr Cafeteria will close as soon as the new facility is ready to open.

Featured Image: Location for the new freestanding dining hall. Courtesy UNT Facilities.

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Brooke Colombo

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  1. Pohbear
    Pohbear March 04, 17:21

    How about making Kerr a kitchen area for students that stay on campus on the weekends. The new dorms and several of the others have kitchens or kitchenettes where students can actually cook meals on the weekends instead of having to spend money. Since its already set up as a kitchen it could just be adapted some and made into a kitchen/living/game area.

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  2. Lyle Beasley
    Lyle Beasley March 24, 01:37

    It’s funny, “We will expand on our whole foods philosophy of campus dining — fresh ingredients, made from scratch, focusing on local ingredient sourcing,” is totally false. UNT Dining Services it’s food from Ben E. Keith distributors. Now the distributor may be local but the food we are eating is nowhere NEAR local. They source their food from international companies like Ore-Ida, Dole, Tyson, Coca-Cola, and Hershey. If UNT wants to “expand on their philosophy,” doing what they feed to the public would be a good place to start.

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