Sam Salkin: Rebirth of the Marvin Center

There’s an elephant in the Marvin Center and no one wants to do anything about it. It’s like that one last pimple that you just can’t seem to get rid of. For some it might be that one person not smiling in the family portrait. Use all the clich?s you want, but at the end of the day, the space formerly known as District Market on the Marvin Center’s ground floor is a work in serious need of progress.

For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to experience the glory of District Market, imagine the result if 7-11 and the Watergate Safeway had a baby with a Kosher section, grade B produce and inconsistent pricing. Despite all its shortcomings and quirkiness, District Market was a staple of our campus. GW and food service provider Aramark’s marriage came to an end in May, however, and the space will now have its garage-style doors closed for a second semester in a row. Unfortunately there are little signs of a plan to improve the space.

How could we let this happen at the school from which “Crossfire” once ruled the 4:30 timeslot on CNN? What GW needs is a plan to revive this important space and make it student-friendly again. While I claim to have no grand ideas, there are a few options out there, ranging from practical to straight-up absurd, that need to be considered.

Last semester, The Hatchet reported that the University was looking into various options regarding the ground floor space in the Marvin Center. There was talk of a Greek Store or a true 24-hour space where students could study or watch performances by student groups around the clock if they were so inclined. Other options involved moving the financial aid offices or more student offices to a central location.

As far as I am concerned, these are all great ideas, but GW really needs to commit to creating a space that has the potential to create a more cohesive campus. Projects like a Greek store have a great potential to bring in revenue for GW, but only serve a fifth of the undergraduate population. Financial aid is a critical part of the University, but I don’t know how putting it in the middle of our campus’ most important building will unify students any more than simply letting us see each other frustrated in public.

The idea of a 24-hour space is an interesting proposition. If it was a wireless-capable, well-lit hub of study space during the week and a student pub that actually could serve alcohol on weekends, the locale could serve multiple purposes and attract the most occupants.

While a common complaint on campus is that there aren’t enough places for us to study when Gelman is stuffed or Duqu?s Hall closes, many GW students feel as if they do not have a place of their own.

A campus pub would provide a place for students to congregate. If the University is worried about not getting a good turnout, there is a simple way to avoid this tragedy – sell cheap drinks. Undercut the local competition and trust me, GW will surely get the response it wants. Worried about fake IDs? Use GWorld cards to validate ages.

This space has potential for even more uses. Imagine if a stage was installed so both student theater groups as well as local and students bands playing live music on the weekends could use it. GW has the potential to create renaissance in the arts. Let jazz bands play Thursday nights and make it a coffee bar. Friday nights, bring in local bands and let the place rock out. Hang student art on the walls and have poetry readings. The sky is the limit.

Of all the ideas, here is the kicker for me. Let Manouch, the late-night hot dog cart salesman in front of the SMPA building, set up shop in the pub. For years, Manouch has served the GW community and has been subject to all types of weather ranging from heat to bitter cold. This space would finally give Manouch the home he deserves, so he doesn’t have to worry about weather or D.C. police giving him a hard time.

This space is too valuable to be left empty for so long. Let’s be sure to keep students in mind when creating a plan for the space. I’m confident that by giving the GW community a place to truly call its own, the University will benefit from a strong student response to a worthwhile investment.

And for all the people still devastated by the loss of District Market on campus, maybe the new space could also sell potatoes and chicken broth. Just for old time’s sake.

-The writer, a junior majoring in geography, is a Hatchet columnist.

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