1920 Commons will close for renovations this summer amid efforts by Penn Dining to address repeated issues raised by recent health inspections.
The initial closure for dining this summer will address issues with the 1920 Commons building infrastructure, Penn Dining announced on March 12. In addition, a study is expected to be completed this semester to determine the time frame and cost estimate for the renovation, Executive Director of Business Services Doug Berger wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
The closure is a part of Penn’s Capital Plan for fiscal year 2023. Under the plan, which was published in June 2022, the Commons renovations would encompass the second and third floors of the facility and cost $10 million this fiscal year and $55 million in total through fiscal year 2024.
The planned improvements to Commons during summer 2023 have been underway since before the Philadelphia Office of Food Protection found the dining hall was not in satisfactory compliance with the Philadelphia health code after conducting inspections on Oct. 3 and Jan. 18. However, Penn Business Services Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger wrote to the DP that some work is being completed now “as part of our comprehensive approach to addressing issues raised in the inspections.”
On March 3, the dining hall was reinspected by the city and was found to not be in satisfactory compliance for the second time this year, with a number of both new and repeated violations of city health code. The most recent inspection cites observations of violations including a cockroach “observed crawling on the wall in the Expo station area” and an “inoperable” dishwasher that has resulted in the use of single-use plates and utensils.
The March 3 inspection came days after Penn Dining announced a new action plan for meeting health and safety regulations in campus dining facilities on Feb. 28. In this announcement, Penn Dining said that its facilities have not had repeated violations that went uncorrected or severe violations.
Hill House was also found not in satisfactory compliance with the health code on Feb. 6 and is still due for reinspection.
Penn Dining said it identified issues with plumbing and drainage in the Commons building that needed to be addressed to prevent pests from getting inside while Commons was closed over spring break. Penn Dining said it has worked with a plumbing specialist to flush, clean, and repair the drains.
“Attending to these mechanics will make significant contributions in preventing pests from entering the building,” Penn Dining wrote.
While most of the repairs were completed during spring break, Penn Dining wrote that there may be additional repairs required that entail closing Commons for about one day. In this case, Penn Dining said it would notify patrons of arrangements for meals in other locations on campus.
The renovation study that is being completed this semester will also determine “what food options we could offer,” Berger wrote.
Commons last underwent renovations during the summer of 2012. These changes focused on the lower floors of Commons, including a revamped patio area, relocating Starbucks to the lower level, and the expansion of the retail dining options. The expansion created what is currently known as Gourmet Grocer, which includes grab-and-go options for students.