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Oct. 6, 2005 • Volume 14 Number 3

The Chocolate Bar in McElroy Commons. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

Going Wild Over 'Wonka-ville'

Students' suggestions lead to improvements in campus dining facilities

A joint effort between students and administrators to improve two campus dining areas is drawing rave reviews in the University community - and the loudest applause may be coming from BC's choco-holics.

In McElroy Commons, the former "Cafe at McElroy" has been completely renovated and painted. Soft seating, a small entertainment venue and new lighting, tables, chairs and computer kiosk were installed in what is now known as "The Chocolate Bar."

But it's not just the space that's been reconfigured at "The Chocolate Bar": The brand new menu features all-chocolate-all-the-time offerings, including a chocolate fondue fountain, chocolate cherry scones, brownies, cookies, coffees and teas.

"One of the students called it 'Wonka-ville,'" said Director of Dining Services Helen Wechsler, referring to fictional candy entrepreneur Willy Wonka.

"I think that's perfect."

At "Upstairs at Addie's" on the second floor of Corcoran Commons, meanwhile, a portion of the eating area was renovated to include softer lighting, plush seating and new tables and chairs which allow for more a comfortable space to meet, sip coffee or study late into the evening.

Whipping up this broth of changes were the Undergraduate Government of Boston College, Dining Services and Facilities Management, whose representatives are quick to dole out credit to their collaborators. BC administrators praise students for the proposal to renovate the facilities, while students say administrators deserve five stars for being open to their requests and ideas.

"It was great for students to be able to work with the administration and it was amazing to see these projects come to fruition," said Undergraduate Government of Boston College President Luke Howe. "Students really do love these new areas."

According to Wechsler, both areas are packed during their operating hours and "The Chocolate Bar," which features live entertainment on weekend nights, is booked through the end of the semester. She said an unexpected benefit of the new eatery is that an increasing number of faculty utilize it for meetings with students.

"'Addie's' is packed every night as well," said Wechsler. "It's been very popular."

The success of the newly renovated eateries is no surprise to members of the administration. Wechsler and her staff meet regularly with a committee of students to discuss everything from coffee flavors, to French fry textures.

"We ask them about everything," she said. "They have a perspective that we don't have, so we have to ask."

Vice President for Facilities Management Thomas Devine, who also meets regularly with students on numerous issues, knew the areas would be popular considering the success of another project finished in recent years, the Hillsides Cafe in 21 Campanella Way. Devine said he was approached last year by members of UGBC, who indicated that students needed more space similar to what could be found at Hillsides.

Devine met several times with students and Dining Services administrators, and after a matter of weeks architects and designers in Capital Planning and Engineering Director Mary Nardone's office had created designs that were acceptable to all three parties.

"It's what the students said they liked, so we did our best to accommodate them," said Devine, who praised the students, especially former UGBC President Grace Simmons '05, for their initiative. "There were a lot of ideas going back and forth and they understood that there was only so much that could be done within our budget."

Facilities Management and Dining Services also collaborated on the project to improve service at Corcoran Commons during peak periods. A plated dessert section was added and more "grab n' go" refrigeration space and fruit smoothie and milk shake machines have been put in place.

Wechsler said that along with the improvements to dining facilities, BCDS plans to make more frequent menu changes so that regular customers see more variety on a seasonal basis.

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