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A year after Stouffer Commons Dining Hall was forced to close its doors, administrators have yet to find a permanent use for the vacant space.

While officials -- after being asked by the Performing Arts Council and the Undergraduate Assembly -- opened Stouffer's deserted basement as additional rehearsal space for needy performing arts groups in December 2001, Penn is still exploring how to fill the area permanently.

Now, administrators say that additional space in what was once the dining hall will be used to house administrative offices. Officials expect the renovation and administration move-in process to be completed in about one year.

"In terms of uses, we are looking at either the administration of the college house system or the backbone of housing services," Vice President for Facilities and Real Estate Services Omar Blaik said.

He added that planning officials "are also looking at student services that are related to health to fill those spaces."

At this point, organizers are planning for the offices to occupy the majority of Stouffer's former dining facility.

While Stouffer Triangle was once slated for demolition as part of a $380 million planned University overhaul in 1998, those plans have been scrapped due in part to insufficient funding. Officials now maintain that the housing, as well as the retail strip in the triangle will remain unchanged.

"Mostly that plan goes back to 1998," Blaik said. "At that time we contemplated the demolition of Stouffer. But that plan really got abandoned back in 1999."

Unrelated to the massive overhaul plans, the dining hall was forced to fold due to a decreasing customer base as students have opted in ever-increasing numbers to eat at the approximately 140 retail establishments around campus instead of the dining halls. Stouffer had accounted for over one-third of the seats of the four combined dining halls that were open in 2000.

Along with the administrative offices, Stouffer's basement will continue to house rehearsal space for performing arts groups. Although the building may be in a state of disrepair, the little space that Stouffer offers is a blessing to these groups.

"From what I've heard they're glad to have the space," Stouffer House Dean Anne Mickle said. "While it may not be the ideal space for performing arts groups, it was available, and that's the most important thing right now."

But the main reason administrators are hanging onto the Stouffer facility is money -- renovating the existing structure will cost much less than tearing down the facility and building something new in its place.

"The cost will probably be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and not in the millions," Blaik said.

Blaik added that the money salvaged in this project can be applied to other more pressing rejuvenation efforts throughout the rest of the campus.

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