Penn Dining has finalized its plans for this summer’s Houston Market renovations.
The $15.15 million renovation, which includes the addition of food stations, kiosks for ordering, and a new seating layout, will begin on May 15 or 16 and end before the fall semester in August.
The decision to renovate the market was made by Penn Dining in the spring of 2016, largely in response to students' complaints about long waiting lines, lack of seating areas, and requests for a space more conducive to studying and hanging out.
“It’s going to be like a new public space on campus,” similar to the Starbucks under 1920 Commons, Penn Business Services spokesperson Barbara Lea-Kruger said.
The seating and lighting in the basement will be altered so that it becomes a space that invites activities beyond simply eating.
“Houston Hall was the first student union in the country, and we want to maintain that feel,” Lea-Kruger added.
Administrators in charge said that when it opens, Houston Market will look and feel completely different than it has for the past 18 years since its opening in 2000.
“It’s being fully gutted,” said Director of Business and Hospitality Services for Penn Dining Pam Lampitt.
Lampitt added that changes to Houston Market will reflect Penn Dining’s emphasis on sustainability. Instead of exclusively providing disposable containers, diners will be given the option to eat on plates that will then be washed.
The sushi station will also expand under the renovations in Houston Market. In place of the Coke Freestyle machine, there will be a smoothie, hummus, and salad station, Lampitt told The Daily Pennsylvanian when Penn Dining first announced the renovation.
College junior Caroline Moore said since she and her gymnastics teammates eat at Houston daily, seating is important to her.
"Sometimes it's hard to find a seat if it's during the lunch hour," she said.
Another key aspect in the revamped Houston Market is its increased efficiency.
Students currently have to order and wait in line at a food station, then wait to pay at one of the centrally located cash registers. After the renovation, Houston Market will have cashiers at every station, as well as computer kiosks for ordering.
Houston Market will also use the app Tapingo to enable mobile ordering and payment.
College freshman Ben Zhang said he often eats at Houston Market because of its proximity to the Quad, but that "it's not the cheapest option," and that service can be slow, especially at the grill station.
College freshman Paulina Pedas echoed Zhang's statements, saying that she "loved" Houston, but that "it's frustrating at times because the lines are so long."
In addition to the logistical changes, the food hall will boast new offerings, including a cafe, a pizza station, and a Mongolian grill — named Ivy Leaf, Pi, and Locust Wok, respectively.
Some of the existing food stations will expand, including Sushi Do, which will have its own seating area and a larger selection of its signature bowls. The salad station, which will add Mediterranean food to its menu, will also be expanded.
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