J Street will undergo large-scale renovations

Posted Saturday, June 12, 2 p.m.

Students will find a completely renovated and redesigned J Street featuring a Wendy’s and new Asian and Mexican dining venues upon returning to campus this fall.

Aramark, which operates most Marvin Center dining services and recently signed a 10-year contract extension with GW, is getting rid of most venues on the Marvin Center’s basement and first floors.

The only venues surviving the renovations are Starbucks, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Subway and Jamba Juice, which will all be located on a completely reconfigured first floor. The University is also redesigning the J Street seating areas.

Along with these familiar venues, Aramark is installing a Wendy’s and three other establishments. The new venues are Baja Sol, a Mexican eatery; the Tuscan Oven, which specializes in brick-oven pizza; and Miso, an Asian venue which will have vegetarian meals as well as sushi.

Occupying the majority of the ground floor will be The District Market, which Amelia Powell, Aramark’s marketing program manager, called “GW’s community grocery store.” She described the market as “Dean and Deluca’s meets Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market.”

Burger King, Chik-Fil-A, Taco Bell and several other venues will not be returning to J Street. Some establishments that will remain, such as Starbucks, are undergoing renovations. The popular coffee shop will feature extra seating, including tables and umbrellas on the currently vacant patio outside the Marvin Center’s H Street entrance.

While officials declined to disclose the cost of the renovations, Powell said the new venues were chosen based on surveys from more than 4,000 students, faculty and staff members. In addition, Aramark conducted several focus groups to better determine the tastes of the GW community.

Deborah Wright, director of the GWorld card program, declined to comment on the specifics of J Street’s newly designed seating area but said, “It will definitely be a different layout, look and feel.”

Aramark officials hope the renovations will allow them to compete with area restaurants and stores. The dining service provider incurred significant financial losses last year following the introduction of the Colonial Cash system, which gives students the opportunity to use meal points at dozens of off-campus locations. Last semester, Aramark curtailed the hours of several venues and laid off several workers to offset its losses.

“We are confident that the new operational plan for the Marvin Center will allow both Aramark and GW to provide a higher level of service and selection to the community, better positioning ourselves to be competitive with outside competition,” Powell said.

Currently, construction on the Marvin Center’s ground floor and J Street have rendered the areas inaccessible to students. GW Bookstore customers must enter the Marvin Center through the building’s 21st Street entrance. Construction began in late May and will continue until August.

Michael Peller, managing director of the Marvin Center and University Conferences, said the building is in the “demolition process” right now, with construction workers completely gutting the center’s dining areas.

Peller expects construction to be completed by the end of August, even though the University is only “in the design phase” of the project.

“Every possible effort to ensure they meet the deadline that they need to is being made,” Peller said.

Officials said they are excited about what the changes mean for both the University and Aramark.

“Aramark needs to compete in the retail market place … and they’re looking for concepts that are going to appeal more to students — venues more on the cutting edge,” Wright said.

“I think it’s great,” Peller said. “It’s time to do a brand-new look in J Street.”

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