Facility Focus (Kitchens and Food Service Facilities)

The University of North Dakota: Wilkerson Commons

University of North Dakota: Wilkerson Commons

PHOTOS © COREY GAFFER AND LONNIE LAFFEN

The University of North Dakota (UND) has reopened the doors to the largest food service area on campus after completely renovating the 46-year-old Wilkerson Hall — now Wilkerson Commons — to create a center for student gathering that revolutionizes production efficiencies.

The 21,000-square-foot transformation by JLG Architects and Solomon Cordwell Buenz provides new features for students based on UND’s strategic priorities: Experience, Gather, Collaborate, Expand, Enhance. In the main dining area eight display cooking stations prepare expanded fresh options, and monitors to illustrate healthy cooking techniques flank a chef’s demonstration cooking platform.

The $4 million kitchen and servery include 11 walk-in coolers that monitor the temperature of the individual food in the freezers to help the staff track how products are affected during high-traffic times, as well as specialty equipment such as a meat slicer that lets staff cut protein in three hours, rather than 20. All of the school’s produce can be washed in a single location in a fraction of the time, and the cook-chill equipment makes hundreds of gallons of pastas and chilis and brings them back down to a cooled state in less than two hours. Says Orlynn Rosaasen, director of Dining Services, “There wasn’t a model for this type of kitchen anywhere else. We are setting the trend.”

Multiple study areas provide quiet locations for individuals, meeting rooms for larger groups, and a high-tech Innovation Lab that allows immersive interaction for students to create, share and learn. The food service and dining services are augmented by a C-store and coffee bar that flank a stage and entertainment space.

Says Lori Reesor, vice president of Student Affairs, “In the past, Wilkerson Hall was the building you went through to get somewhere else. But the new Wilkerson serves as a magnet — drawing students, faculty and staff together.”

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.

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