Red Jacket Dining Hall and Southside Café will both be closed for the entirety of next semester, according to Mark Scott, executive director of Campus Auxiliary Services.
Scott said that the entire building is in need of a mechanical renovation, especially due to concerns about the building's temperature during the warmer parts of the year.
"It's pretty uncomfortable in the warmer months - and I think that's an understatement," he said. "On some days it can be unbearable for employees to work or become a poor dining experience for guests."
The plans for renovations, however, have suffered multiple setbacks: "We were presented an opportunity but it didn't get through approvals quickly," Scott said.
In addition to the delay of approvals, the most important piece of equipment needed in the renovation is custom-made. Ongoing discussions with the unionized CAS workers over the situation that will follow the start of the renovation are also setting back the process. The full plan for the project will not be finished until June 1.
"We're only about 60 to 70 percent complete with our plan at this point," said Scott.
As a result, the work cannot be done over the summer, validating Scott's decision to close the building for the entire fall 2009 semester.
Although recent budget cuts contributed to postponement of the project, according to Scott, this project attains a certain level of importance. "We're not building a 'new' RJ or Southside. This is not about aesthetics," he said. "This is a project to make the work and dining environment better for employees and guests at RJ and Southside. Due to this, the project rises to a particular level of capital work."
Currently, CAS is focusing on what will be available to students in lieu of RJ and Southside closing next semester. "We're going to put together the very best temporary dining solution we can," said Scott. "We're not just throwing something together."
This temporary dining solution will likely include opening Mary Jemison dining hall later in the evening for dinner, keeping Taco Bell open late, trying out a pizza and salad delivery service and implementing a system to shuttle students back and forth between Southside and the middle of campus.
These plans are still not definite, as the temporary dining solution and the discussions with union employees are incomplete.
According to Scott, CAS should officially release a plan in the next week to 10 days. Although there has been discussion of the possibility of closing down the building for about two months and Scott made the decision to close the buildings about a month ago, uncertainty surrounding the situation prevented CAS from releasing a definitive statement earlier.
Plans are still under discussion, but the closure is definite. "I would hope that everything is done by the end of October," said Scott, "but I'm looking out for the worst … which led me to decide to close the building for the entire semester."