Inside the new Village Center Dining and Community Commons at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Keeping up with growth on the University of Colorado Boulder campus presents enterprising opportunities for the housing and dining services team. The latest immense project since the Center for Community (C4C) was built in 2010, the Village Dining and Community Center in Williams Village replaces the Darley Commons facility built in 1969, which had never been updated. The project spanned five years from inception to completion, executed in two phases. During construction, a temporary quick-serve, 40-seat restaurant provided service.
Williams Village houses 2,800 students in 2 sets of residence towers. Adjacent Bear Creek accommodates returning undergraduates (upper classmen) in 2 apartment buildings. Another 700 students will move into a seventh residence hall when it opens in 2019. Phase one of the project included the main all-you-care-to-eat facility with 5 micro-restaurants and The Grotto, a late-night operation open from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. daily that serves burgers, shakes and other comfort foods. Phase two features the build-out of the retail Village Market that includes the grab-and-go Village Express, with a menu of burritos and sandwiches, and the greenhouse adjacent to the salad venue.
"We aimed to build a one-stop community center that not only serviced the current residents, but attracted future residents to live in Williams Village," says Paul Houle, director of campus dining services. "The Williams Village area is growing, but it has been hampered by misconceptions of its location relative to parts of campus where classrooms, the main rec center and other activities take place. We wanted to change all that by bringing a world class community center and modern dining experience to students so that they feel their living experience is not limited in any way while attending CU Boulder." The center also contains the largest conference center on campus, which will draw visitors from across the globe.
In keeping with its belief that residential programming and premier dining are necessary complements to a robust, well-rounded college experience, the design team gathered feedback from students, faculty, staff and culinary team members. They also applied lessons learned from C4C to create the Village Center design.
"We took CU Boulder team members on restaurant tours in New York City and Detroit," says Juana Gomez, associate principal and dining specialist, KSQ Design. Several team members had traveled to other cities while planning C4C.
One of the design team's challenges was to determine whether dining should be on two levels or one and if dining should be on an upper or lower level. "Darley had one staircase that was really tight and the kitchen was located two floors away from the servery," Houle says. "We decided to place it on the second level so the dining areas are all together and take advantage of the views of the Flatirons Mountains, which were available in the dining hall that was demolished." Three sides of the building take in the breathtaking views of these gorgeous mountains. Dining sits on the second level, which allows for outdoor dining areas to overlook the campus. The conference center sits on the level beneath and has easy access to the dining facility above it.
When entering the new all-you-care-to-eat facility that required 18 months of construction, visitors see an open design with generous circulation space, use of natural lighting and inviting seating areas. Four outdoor patios also offer seating, shaded areas with umbrellas, and fire pits. "The space is much easier to navigate compared to other campus dining facilities on campus," says Chester Ehrig, senior associate, KSQ Design.
As visitors enter the building, they arrive at a dramatic double-volume lobby with engineered wood paneling and stained concrete floors, which are found in the entire building except the conference areas. "The client wanted a warm color palette, a contemporary take on that Colorado lodge or cabin feel, so we used a lot of stacked stone, both natural and engineered, throughout the building," Ehrig says.
Inside, the many skylights and tall windows allow for daylight to infiltrate the space. "In most areas, we don't have to supplement with artificial light between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.," says Houle. "Electro-chromatic glass adjusts to sun levels and darkens or lightens as necessary to keep the space well lit, but without the glare and heat gain, so dining guests can see the beautiful views of the Flatirons."
"The lighting throughout the facility creates a fun and relaxing environment for all dayparts," says Mona Milius, vice president and senior principal at Bakergroup, the project's foodservice consultants. "The up and down track lighting around soffits and counters gives a soft glow to the finishes and provides an artistic element to each micro-restaurant. Each dining seating area has decorative pendant lights to add a restaurant-feel to the space. A fireplace adorns a corner of the dining room to warm students during the Colorado chilly months."
Also drawing attention to the space are tables made by a local artist from beetle-kill pinewood reclaimed from the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Several chairs are each composed of 111 20-ounce Coke bottles. Local artisans' pottery and wall art also contribute to the Colorado lodge ambiance.
"The individualized character development and material selection for each micro-restaurant allows students to feel as though they are visiting a different restaurant each day," Milius says. "Concepts were modeled after specific regions throughout Colorado." For example, Toast took cues from the rolling dunes of the San Luis Valley region while the Salad and American Hearth venues brought in farming and agricultural elements from the region in Colorado known as the Front Range.
"The design team was asked to create a destination dining center, featuring cuisines and atmospheres not found in other dining operations on campus," says Juergen Friese, CFSP, associate director of campus dining services. "As an auxiliary operation, campus dining services is responsible to create the necessary revenues to allow us to renovate and build new facilities. There is a strong focus on off-campus meal plans, guest revenue for non-affiliated customers and special groups."
Back-of-the-House Storage and Production
"The building did not have a traditional rear, so the first design challenge was, where does the loading dock go?" Cali says. The receiving dock ended up in its original location and met all the requirements, such as two bays for trucks, one with dock levelers and the other with a scissor lift, and space for trash and a cardboard compactor.
Team members accept deliveries at the loading dock and stage items in a walk-in refrigerator, two walk-in freezers and ambient dry storage before distributing the ingredients to the production kitchen and each venue on the level above.
The dish room contains an accumulator/scrapping station, two flight-type dishmachines, an agitating compartment sink, an agitating soak sink and a biodigester that treats food waste and creates an eco-friendly product that is safely re-added to the waste-water supply.
In the back of the house, team members assemble ingredients, including vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, soups, sauces and baked goods, that are produced in the C4C central commissary. "Deliveries are made twice a day from C4C and the main bakery," Friese says.
Team members also wash organic fruit and vegetables for smoothies and juices in an agitating sink. A floor-model processor helps team members prepare hummus. The complete equipment package includes a range with a conventional oven, a charbroiler, griddle, steamer, combi ovens, kettles and a pressure braising pan. A blast chiller accepts mobile carts, which helps enhance productivity. The kitchen also contains ingredient bins, 80-gallon and 20-gallon mixers, a food processor, can opener, two slicers, two buffalo choppers, an ice machine and ice bin.
Front of the House
Each unique dining venue stands alone as a separate micro-restaurant. The restaurants incorporate several types of highly durable materials including quartz counters, reclaimed wood, hammered laminate, metal and ceramic tiles and murals of Colorado landscapes. Black acoustic tile comprises all the ceilings.
"Many lessons-learned discussions took place to pinpoint the types of durable materials that created a lasting design both physically as well as aesthetically," Milius says. "Using stylized tiles and laminate finishes, combined with heavy-duty hardware, allowed us to achieve the best of both worlds."
In addition to offering display cooking, most venues also contain self-service. "We thoughtfully integrated the equipment into the design of the counters as well as adjacent production spaces to maintain the restaurant vibe while still working functionally to support staff preparation, assembly, and cooking," Milius says. "Each micro-restaurant is self-contained with its own equipment and each restaurant except Peaks has its own walk-in refrigeration. This design reduces the number of steps taken by staff. The staff make less frequent trips to the kitchen for back-up supplies during peak serving hours, which results in more customer-centered service."
The eight venues offer customers a different culinary experience than they find at other campus venues.
Toast, an all-day breakfast restaurant, features omelets, egg skillets, breakfast sandwiches made to order and globally inspired breakfast fare such as chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, shakshuka, shrimp and grits and congee. Breakfast tacos and breakfast pizzas also perk up the menu offerings. Team members prepare these menu items on a range with a conventional oven, two combi ovens, two griddles and a salamander. Beverages provide an attractive draw to this station. Team members use two blenders: a countertop juice machine and a vegetable juicer to prepare everything from Sunset Juice, a blend of fruit and vegetables, to Carrot Ginger juice, and Blueberry Lime smoothies. Customers use waffle irons to make their own waffles with warm toppings, and also find build-your-own yogurt parfaits, hot cereals and fresh biscuits and jam.
One of the most appealing attractions sits in the smoothie area, where customers ride stationary bikes to power the blenders. The dining team features the bikes as attractions for celebrations. "The blender bikes for making smoothies are a great example of how to showcase sustainable features in a fun way," Ehrig says.
Colorado Hearth features farm-fresh foods, including beef, chicken, root and other vegetables and fruits locally sourced within 250 miles of Boulder. A display grill, rotisserie oven, charbroiler, two ranges, a charbroiler and induction range attract the attention of customers as they watch culinary staff prepare herb-roasted chicken over seasonal vegetables, superfood mac-n-cheese with kabocha squash and kale, and blended mushroom and beef burgers with tomato aioli and cabbage slaw.
MiddleTerranean, designed with a modern touch to evoke images of the Denver metro area, features a blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Culinary team members use a vertical grill to make freshly carved gyros, a stone hearth oven to bake pizzas, Middle Eastern flatbreads, and a range with a conventional oven to prepare baked gluten-free falafel and spanakopita. Cooks prepare chicken and lamb shawarma on the griddle and rotisserie chicken on the vertical rotisserie.
Curry Road contains a large, ventless flattop grill for preparing curries derived from recipes originating in India and extending to the South Pacific. Customers select bowls with rice, rice noodles or lettuce and select various curry sauces, vegetables, chutneys and proteins. Customizable bowls continue to gain in popularity because they offer so many ingredients to meet customers' food preferences. This venue's equipment package includes two rice cookers, a display griddle, wok range, range with a conventional oven, charbroiler, and combi ovens.
The Grange's palette of colors represents Colorado's western slope. This area features a smoker, open-flame grills, flattop griddles, a charbroiler and combi ovens so team members can produce an array of comfort foods ranging from burgers and fries to smoked meat sandwiches. "This is the first dining operation on campus without deep-fat fryers, so combi ovens take on the task of baking fries, as well as other traditionally fried foods," Friese says. Another attraction here is a carving station where team members offer customers freshly prepared smoked ribs, brisket, sides of salmon, chicken wings and pork butts.
Demonstration, a demo/teaching kitchen, features 18 induction burners that culinary staff set up when offering cooking lessons. The culinary team have access to a microphone and camera while teaching students basic cooking techniques and more advanced skills.
Evergreens, a salad bar, features a glass enclosure on the ceiling above the salad bar that directs chilled air downward to keep the ingredients on display cool and fresh. "The room temperature here is lower than other parts of the building," Friese says. This fall, customers will look over to the hydroponic greenhouse to watch their salad ingredients grow, get harvested, and get prepped for service. They can also see the product storage area, a walk-in cooler adjacent to the salad area.
Each day, customers find three from-scratch-made soups, such as potato chowder, chicken tortilla and vegetable quinoa, at the soup bar and made-to-order sandwiches at the deli bar. Customers use self-serve panini presses to heat sandwiches and three toasters to heat bread and bagels.
Peaks, the dessert venue, allows customers to see production of freshly baked cookies, vegan/gluten-free fruit crisp, fresh pies, cakes and bars. This station also features a 20-quart mixer, three soft service machines, a toaster, microwave, panini press and a countertop speed oven. "We'll soon be using a processor with a high-speed blade that shaves an extremely fine layer of frozen food with each revolution and processes a portion in just 20 seconds to make vegan-based frozen desserts such as sorbets and banana ice cream using just frozen fruit," Friese says.
Three beverage stations offer a selection of coffee, tea and soda drinks.
For customers looking for allergen-friendly menu items, a small station features foods that are free of nine allergens. The A9 program spans from the Village to all campus facilities. Tags with types of allergens alert customers to ingredient content.
The Grotto, the late-night venue on the first floor, connects to the dining center by a staircase and provides service from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. The restaurant's equipment includes panini presses, a microwave oven, soup wells, griddle, charbroiler, plus a range with a conventional oven allowing the culinary team to serve burgers, chicken sandwiches and tater tots poutine. Since deep-fat fryers are absent here, two combi ovens bake potatoes. Myriad coffee and tea drinks, sodas and smoothies also comprise the menu.
Sustainable and Energy-Saving Features
CU Boulder has long been a leader in sustainable practices. The Village center, which is on track to earn LEED Platinum certification, features:
- A biodigester that liquefies food waste and returns it to the wastewater treatment in Boulder
- Low flow water fixtures
- An array of photovoltaic panels, generating
- 140 kW (will be placed on the white roof soon)
- Energy star-rated equipment when possible
- Smaller trays to avoid food waste
- Daylight harvesting — some areas are not lit artificially from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. — through large windows and skylights
- Motion sensors, occupancy sensors
- Electrochromic glass external windows act similarly to transition eyeglass lenses, darkening when direct sunlight hits them. That eliminates the need for window blinds and leaves the beautiful views available all day long.
- Each of the 181 or 28 percent of the chairs in the dining center are made from 111, 20-ounce recycled plastic Coke bottles
- Colorado Beetle-kill pinewood tables
- Reclaimed wood used throughout the facility
- Bicycle-powered smoothie blenders
- Typical sustainable approaches such as using low-flow plumbing fixtures, LED lighting and low VOC paint
- HVAC systems with sensors prevent heating and cooling from running in rooms that are unoccupied
- Native plants in the landscaping cut down on the need for excessive irrigation and fertilizer and do not negatively affect local ecosystems
- A biodigester in the dining center treats food waste and creates an eco-friendly product that is safely re-added to the waste-water supply
CU Boulder's strong food waste reduction program involves students from their first day on campus. Various events teach the students about food waste. "Every semester we hold a 'Scrape Your Plate' event to illustrate to students how much food is wasted per person," Friese says. "The results are published in the dining centers." (For more on CU Boulder's sustainability efforts, see page 108).
CU Boulder's dining team also offers programs — Green Food Gatherings and Nutrition Forum — that teach students about sustainable food practices and nutrition. The team publicizes most of its programming through social media and digital signage on campus. The team also encourages students to learn more about diversity and other cultures by offering World Street Food Week options and partnering with the Cultural Unity and Engagement office at CU Boulder to offer special dinners and learning opportunities centered around ethnic cuisines.
The 3,000-square-foot greenhouse, scheduled to open this fall, will supply all the leafy vegetables, and some herbs, for the Village center operation as well as other campus dining locations across campus. Equipped with 156 8-foot aeroponic towers, 16 towers will provide produce for the center and the remaining 140 will produce salad greens for the entire Colorado University Boulder campus. C4C also uses the aeroponic system.
CU Boulder's dining team and project designers started with ambitious goals to build a facility and dining experience to meet or exceed expectations already established at impressive campus operations. During its first few months of operation, Houle and Friese report that the new operation brings in positive customer response.
Facts of Note:
- Opened: Main building, Jan. 11, 2017; the hybrid Village Market and Village Express, fall of 2017
- Scope of Project: The Village Center Dining and Community Commons serves the Williams Village community of approximately 2,800 students in 4 residential buildings and will soon serve 700 more in another building. The new dining and community center contains 8 micro-restaurants and a late-night retail operation; the hybrid Village Market and Village Express grab-and-go operation; indoor seating; outdoor seating on a patio with a fire pit; a greenhouse serving campus foodservice operations; and a conference center. The new building also features a variety of amenities to create a one-stop resource for students: Academic Success and Achievement Program (ASAP) for student tutoring; Residence Hall Association and Bear Creek Leadership program; Wardenburg's Health and Counseling Clinic with 4 exam/clinic rooms and 3 counseling rooms; entrepreneurial space (1,650 square feet) for a student think tank; a multipurpose room with seating space of up to 500 guests; 2 breakout rooms for events and trainings; indoor and outdoor space with alcoholic beverages permitted for groups of over 21 years of age; full-service UPS store opening in the fall; and outdoor experiences such as movie nights on the lawn to allow programs to expand beyond the building.
- Size: 113,224 sq. ft., including a 45,000 sq. ft. dining facility, 30,000 sq. ft. conference center, 15,000 sq. ft. of student services and a 3,000 sq. ft. greenhouse
- Seats: 700 in multiple seating areas, 49 in a private dining room, 200 outside on 4 patios; 70 in Grotto
- Average Check: Three main all-you-care-to-eat options inside the dining center: 1) meal plan for students (required by freshmen residents), cost varies with meal plan chosen; 2) campus cash for faculty and staff and upperclassmen who do not opt for a meal plan, $7+tax; 3) credit/debit card for the general public, $12+tax
- Total Annual Sales/Revenue: $53 million
- Daily Transactions: 4,500
- Hours: 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.; The Grotto, a late-night operation open from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m.
- Menu Specialties: Toast, all-day breakfast; Colorado Hearth, features ingredients sourced within 250 miles of campus; MiddleTerranean, a blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare; Curry Road with curry dishes; The Grange, a grill offering typical burgers, fries (made in combi ovens because there are no deep fryers in the Village Center) and slow-smoked barbecue; Evergreens, a salad bar; Peaks, a dessert station; and Demonstration, chef's choice. In addition, The Grotto, featuring burgers, fries and comfort food late night; and Village Market featuring grab-and-go foods.
- Staff: 60 employees
- Total Project Cost: $49.9 million
- Equipment Investment: $5 million
- Website: https://housing.colorado.edu/dining
- Owner: University of Colorado, Housing & Dining Services
- Project Manager, University of Colorado, Housing & Dining Services: Jon Keiser
- Executive Director, Housing & Dining Services: Amy Beckstrom
- Director, Campus Dining Services: Paul Houle
- Associate Director for Business Operation, Campus Dining Services: Juergen Friese, CFSP
- Executive Chef: Eliah Golden
- Architect: KSQ Design, Denver office; Jamie Cali, AIA, LEED AP, senior associate; Chester Ehrig, senior associate; Cornell Allen, RA, project architect
- Interior Design: KSQ Design PC, Denver office; Shannon Meyer, RID, IIDA, LEED AP, principal, and associates Danielle Terrell, NCIDQ, and Krista Dillion, architectural intern; and Bakergroup, Grand Rapids, Mich., Kaiti Arendsen, Lindsay Grab, Casey Szcesniak
- Foodservice Consultants: Bakergroup, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Jim Sukenik, FCSI, president, design principal; Mona Milius, MBA, vice president, senior principal; Stephanie Occhipinti, LEED AP, project manager, production principal
- Equipment Dealer: Johnson-Lancaster and Associates, Clearwater, Fla.
- Construction: GE Johnson Construction Company, Denver; Jeff Van Es, senior project manager
Meet the Players
Amy Beckstrom, executive director, Housing & Dining Services, University of Colorado Boulder. Beckstrom has worked at CU Boulder for 14 years. Prior to this, she was the director of auxiliary and dining services. She is currently serving as the president of NACUFS.
Jamie Cali, AIA, LEED AP, senior associate, design director at KSQ Design. With more than 30 years of experience, Cali's portfolio spans a wide range of project types, sizes and budgets. Cali's projects include University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Stony Brook University in New York, Colorado School of Mines and North Dakota State University.
Chester Ehrig, senior associate, design director at KSQ Design. Ehrig joined KSQ Design in May 2003. Projects include Stony Brook University, Oral Roberts University, Southern Methodist University and Texas Christian University.
Juergen Friese, associate director for business operations for campus dining services at the University of Colorado Boulder. Friese oversees major equipment replacement, renovations and construction of new foodservice facilities. He manages a foodservice equipment inventory of more than $15 million. Born and raised in Munich, Germany, he has resided for the past 29 years in the U.S. He began working in the family-owned restaurant and has 40 years of experience in hotel, restaurant and non-commercial kitchens. He joined the University of Colorado Boulder 27 years ago.
Juana Gomez, associate principal, dining specialist at KSQ Design. As a project manager with an emphasis on educational dining and with KSQ Design since September 2009, Gomez's projects include Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Paul Houle, director of campus dining services, housing & dining services, University of Colorado Boulder. Houle has held a variety of positions over the past 15 years at the University of Colorado Boulder. He has developed cohesive teams which have helped strengthen the reputation of CU Boulder's Campus Dining Services, bringing national recognition.
Shannon Meyer, RID, IIDA, LEED AP, principal at KSQ Design. Joining KSQ in 2005, Meyer began serving as the firm's director of interior design in 2010. She leads a team of 13 interior designers on projects nationwide. Projects include Oklahoma State University, Oral Roberts University, the University of Texas at Dallas and Southern Methodist University.
Mona Milius, MBA, vice president, Bakergroup. Milius' background includes serving as director of dining services at the University of Northern Iowa and, for the past 10 years, serving as senior designer for Bakergroup. Her recent design projects include CU Boulder's Center for Community, University of Michigan's South Quad, Douglass Dining at Rochester University and University of Alabama's Fresh Food Dining.
Stephanie Occhipinti, LEED AP, project manager, production principal, Bakergroup. Occhipinti joined Bakergoup in 2007. After graduating, she worked with the firm as an interior designer and today serves as project manager and production principal.
Jim Sukenik, FCSI, president, design principal, Bakergroup. Sukenik founded Bakergroup in 1985 and serves as the creative mind behind the firm's success. He has provided leadership for more than 1,600 projects during his tenure as president and has received numerous awards and honors.