Student lobbies for upgrades in Marvin Center

A student leader is eyeing the Marvin Center’s dining hub as a way to recoup student space lost in a campus reshuffle over the last year.

Dylan Pyne, chair of the Marvin Center Governing Board, has been lobbying administrators to replace the decade-old furniture in Columbian Square, the building’s cafeteria, to turn it into a place where students can do more than just eat.

New tables and chairs and extra couches for the square would further reinvent the campus dining center, the senior said, after its venues underwent comprehensive changes last summer to draw more students to the area. He hopes to see new furnishings by the end of this summer, a change that depends on the outcome of talks with administrators over the next few weeks.

The latest furniture upgrade came to the Metro Diner, an eatery added to J Street over the summer that features more than a dozen armchairs as well as a cluster of high tables and stools. Pyne said students have been pleased with the diner’s seating options.

The building’s managers began conversations about replacing Columbian Square’s 15-year-old furniture last fall, Pyne said, and he has continued to urge them to consider the growing use of J Street as a student lounge as other areas on campus are repurposed.

He said the University has “encroached” on student space in the Marvin Center with this January’s closing of the Hippodrome, a bowling and billiards area, and last spring’s shuttering of WOW Cafe & Wingery, a burger and wings joint. The Fishbowl, a student lounge located at G and 21 streets, also closed this fall.

“There’s a real opportunity here to make a solely-student space. I’m working really closely with the administration to make sure it gets the attention it deserves because it’s the last student space we have left,” Pyne said.

The University announced in January that the former Hippodrome location on the building’s fifth floor would not include community space for student organizations, a move that spurred Pyne to lobby more aggressively for lounge space in Columbian Square. After its overhaul this summer, the fifth floor will likely include Career Services and the International Services Office, the project’s coordinator Chris Deering said in January.

At the board’s meeting in late January, Marvin Center staff talked about replacing the dining area’s furniture and adding soft seating to the upper level of Columbian Square near the room’s windows facing 21st Street. Anya Hughes, deputy director of Campus Support Services, said the team is “trying to see what sort of funding is available” and will have an update on the project early this month.

Hughes declined to comment on the estimated cost for new seating.

Pyne and Aria Varasteh, another member of the Marvin Center Governing Board, said they are seeking to meet the dual needs of Columbian Square as a dining hall and student activity space.

Varasteh wants to see a setup that can be used by faculty and staff during the busy lunch and dinner hours and by students during late nights. He also said the University should look into replacing the tables and chairs with softer seating on the weekends when the eateries are closed.

“While we are considering opportunities to enhance the use of Columbian Square, to make it a more comfortable space, there are no specific plans with regards to new construction or additional furniture at this time,” Managing Director of Campus Support Services Nancy Haaga said, declining to provide details of the efforts.

“We will continue to discuss and listen to ideas on potential future enhancements to the space,” she added.

Haaga said the office was hesitant to refurbish the area because of the limited popularity of previous changes.

“This fall we included new soft seating in the Metro Diner, but have only seen a modest level of use of that seating during evening and weekends,” Haaga said.

Freshman Kara Grandin said she doesn’t usually eat at J Street, but she often does work at the dining hub between classes.

“I may go there more if couches were there,” Grandin said.

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