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Ohio State Kennedy Commons serves up $12.5M tab for remodel

Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor

Nearly a year-and-a-half after Kennedy Commons closed its doors for a total renovation, the redesigned dining option features a new menu, restaurant and energy-efficient aspects.

The total project budget for Kennedy Commons was more than $12.5 million, according to the Facilities Operations and Development budget.

Karri Benishek, the marketing manager of University Residences and Dining Services, said Kennedy Commons was the first eating option on Ohio State’s campus. She said this historic building was renovated close to its original splendor and will now have a new, all-you-can-eat dining experience for south campus.

Kennedy Commons, located at 251 W. 12th Ave., re-opens with added air conditioning and restored traditional architectural features, Benishek said.

The Kennedy Commons renovation is the first phase of the Food Service Master Plan to renovate traditional dining commons to better accommodate the demands of students, faculty, staff and visitors on campus, Benishek said.

The Kennedy Commons project focused on the interior organization within the complex, Benishek said. The dining areas received a complete interior remodel, as well as an improved serving line, additional seating and new food offerings.

“The biggest change between the old Kennedy and the remodel would be the style in which we serve students of the university,” said Daniel Hall, student manager at Kennedy Commons. “Previously, Kennedy consisted of a limited selection of food items that was on a one-week rotation. Everything was based upon a four-week master static menu, so the first week of food would repeat the fifth week. The second week would be the same as the sixth week. It was very limiting, considering that there was only five to eight items each week to choose from.”

Now, the food will consistently change each week of the quarter, Hall said. Since the options are constantly changing, the students and guests will have an extensive menu of items to choose from.

“It is no longer a ‘cafeteria.’ It is now, for lack of a better word, a food court. You can walk into Traditions at Kennedy and order a burger from one station that has multiple other choices and come back the next day and order Huevos Rancheros from another station that also has multiple choices,” Hall said.

The old infrastructure has been improved by creating a new entrance and improving the energy efficiency of old systems. Benishek said the renovations attained a certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). According to their website, LEED certifications are given to construction projects that implement “practical and measurable ‘green’ building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.”

John Church, head of the Kennedy Commons kitchen for the past three years, said the new kitchen design will be more functional for students and guests, “which will provide better service and products.”

Kennedy Commons will also now house the newest retail operation in campus dining services: 12th Avenue Bread Company.

12th Avenue Bread Company features artisan-bread-inspired sandwiches, fresh soups, salads, morning quiche and pastries, according to the OSU Student Life website. Inside, there will be indoor tables and booths, along with outdoor seating options, highlighted with bamboo trim work, and olive, persimmon and ivory-colored accents.

“When you spend a lot of time at work, your staff is what makes it worth it,” said Nathan Darder, operations manager of Kennedy Commons. “Over the past weeks they have worked so hard to get everything set up and organized and trained to make sure we are successful. We received the building on Sept. 3 and served our first meal on the 14th. They have been amazing.”

The new Kennedy Commons, with its transition from a single-cafeteria-style serving line to a serving area with multiple stations, will have its soft opening this Tuesday with samplings throughout the week, Benishek said. It will have multiple managers, a full time staff and 200 student-employees, Darder said.

Hours will be Monday through Friday, breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays The Commons will be open 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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