Changing Spaces: William Pitt Union Eatery and Litchfield Towers Food Court Get Facelifts

Issue Date: 
August 20, 2013

Some of the university spaces most heavily used by students have undergone impressive facelifts over the summer.

The William Pitt Union’s Assembly Room, host to everything from lectures and poetry slams to jazz seminars and job fairs, has new audiovisual equipment, upgraded mechanical and electrical systems, and better lighting. In addition, natural lighting now streams into the room from three large windows that had been covered by a wall for decades.

“We’re really pleased with how this has turned out,” said Pitt Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kathy Humphrey. The $1.93 million facelift is the first for the Assembly Room since the 1980s. Other changes include an extension of the room’s performance stage and additional seating room because the disability ramp was moved to the opposite side of the room.

“Now we’ll be able to accommodate a few more events that we couldn’t hold in here before,” Humphrey added.

The Union’s first-floor restrooms have also been renovated with new tile and fixtures. That project, totaling approximately $390,000, was spurred, in part, by requests from students.

The last of the three Union renovation projects is visible when descending the stairs. The eatery outside of Nordy’s Place has a new look, created by the removal of glass partitions that separated food stations from tables.

“It’s more like a true food court now,” said Sodexo General Manager Abdou Cole. The $1.85 million project also included moving Taco Bell from the Litchfield Towers to the Union’s new food court, placing it beside Pizza Hut. Nikola’s Garden, which offers made-to-order salads, and the Sub Connection will remain.

“There is more ambience down here now,” said Cole. “This brings more life to the building.”

The Union’s food area isn’t the only eating area with a new look. Market Central, which feeds 4,500 students a day in its Litchfield Towers basement location, also has been renovated.

Its Quick Zone, where students can grab anything from a loaf of bread to toothpaste, has been expanded. New hot-food and dessert stations have been added. But many favorites remain, including Basic Kneads, which offers grilled Panini sandwiches, and Magellan’s, offering international cuisine, including halal food that was requested by Pitt’s Muslim student population.

Meeting student demands in the campus food industry is a science of its own. Cole and other Sodexo administrators carefully review customer insight surveys to learn students’ preferences and buying patterns. Charts that show exactly where the heaviest population of students will be an hour before lunchtime has dictated where Sodexo has located its venues and what they will serve there.

The research shows that students like to snack as well as partake in meals. So to help accommodate the hunger pangs of 560 Pitt freshmen living in the new Nordenberg Hall just down the block, a new bakery, nestled between the bookstore and the Union, will provide that morning bagel or a cookie between classes.

“Everything we plan is very student-driven,” said Cole. “Today’s students question things more. They’re more active and more demanding.”