East Commons to get $2.8 million face lift

by Staff

If you’re wondering what was done to the West Commons eating facility while it was closed for finals week last semester and for the entire winter break, don’t get excited.

The only visible difference in the eating facility is the addition of eight men and women’s bathroom stalls and an additional bathroom upstairs, said Margaret Casey, facilities director for Aztec Food Services.

The project, which cost Aztec Shops $290,000, also brought the building up to seismic codes and expanded the kitchen area to accommodate more customers, Casey said.

“We’re mainly preparing the building in order to serve our customers more efficiently,” she said. “It wasn’t the kind of thing that’s readily apparent. (The changes) were more functional improvements.”

West Commons needed to be upgraded because its usage will greatly increase at the end of this semester when a complete renovation of East Commons takes place.

The East Commons eating facility, located next to the library, will be closed immediately after commencement ceremonies in May 1997 and will reopen in February 1998. Demolition will take place during the summer months.

The $2.8 million project will be funded entirely by Aztec Shops.

“The building is going to be gorgeous,” said Laura Gropen, marketing manager for Aztec Shops. “Not only will it look a lot better, but it will serve more students more efficiently.”

One of the main changes will be the addition of air conditioning to the building.

“This renovation will dramatically improve the air flows and temperatures in (the East Commons facility),” said Campus Development Committee chairman Bob Mansfield in a report to the San Diego State University Faculty Senate on Nov. 26, 1996.

The Senate approved the renovation plans in its Dec. 12 meeting.

The seating capacity at East Commons will increase from 800 to 1,200. The main plus, however, will be greater efficiency in serving food. The kitchen area will be expanded because Courtyard Cafe, which takes up a large portion of space in front of the building, will move to the West Commons side of campus.

An enlarged bakery area and convenience store will be new features of East Commons, as well as patio additions, new canopies and other aesthetic improvements to the building, Gropen said.

The most noticeable difference, however, will be a complete face lift of the building’s 40-year-old exterior, Gropen said. Aztec Shops hired the same architects and construction company that were involved with the dome addition of the Malcolm A. Love Library.

“(The new library and East Commons) will hopefully complement each other,” Gropen said.

The same types of food will be served when East Commons reopens, but different food companies may be contracted, Gropen said.

The Faculty Senate expressed concern over the options for temporary food service during closure of the eating facility.

Aztec Shops’ solution is the placement of temporary food trucks throughout campus. Fast-food restaurants such as Taco Bell and Burger King will be brought on campus.

“Does that mean that students from residence halls who eat at East Commons will have to go to a truck to eat?” asked Faculty Sen. Dave DuFault at the Dec. 10 meeting.

Mansfield responded that students might be sent over to the West Commons eating facility during the eight-month closure.

The mess made by construction during the centennial year festivities versus the urgency of upgrading the building to safety codes was debated.

“We have been grossly under capacity for at least a decade, and with the anticipated growth in enrollment, we will be unable to meet even the basic food service requirements of this campus in the immediate future,” Mansfield said in his report. “Any delay would mean the facility would not reopen until sometime during the spring term of 1998 almost two years from now.”

Mansfield said the basic building systems won’t last that long. Electrical systems are on overload and the building doesn’t meet current life safety, ADA and seismic codes.

“A delay will substantially affect the budget,” he said. “We are straining now to generate funds internally to cover all the expenses. Delay will cost at least 10 percent, or nearly $400,000.”