UCAB chooses Thai restaurant

The first phase of the University Centers expansion, originally slated for a fall opening, will not open until December and will include a new restaurant serving Thai cuisine, according to University Centers Director and acting Vice Chancellor of Student Life Gary R. Ratcliff.

Greg Dale/Guardian
Building blocks:

As a part of the expansion’s first phase, University Centers has provided a shell for the restaurant, which will then furnish the space at its own expense, Ratcliff said. The first part of expansion on Student Center broke ground last fall, and will be funded jointly by reserves from the University Centers budget and the chancellor’s office. Once the building opens, students will have access to 13,000 square feet of facilities, including dining, seating, lounge space, the Thai restaurant and new locations for the Women’s Center and campus groups.

“On the first floor of the building [will be] things of more use to students, including places to eat, sit and relax,” Ratcliff said. “When you think about it, there’s no place for students to do that kind of thing at the Student Center. Plus, another restaurant will mean less wait at other eateries, and more choices on campus.”

The opening of the project’s first phase was postponed because of rain delays last winter, according to Ratcliff.

“It’s just a minor setback, a month or so,” he said. “Construction allows us a set number of rain days, which was overshot with last winter’s large rain season.”

The University Centers expansion, which includes development of Student Center and Price Center, has been able to stay within budget, but has faced challenges from an abnormal real estate market, Ratcliff said.

“The construction market and cost escalation in San Diego has been the worst it’s been in 20 years,” he said. “It has an impact on every construction project on campus. You’re trying to buy the same square footage at a higher cost. Because the construction prices have increased something like 15 percent at least in last two years, you have to engage in value engineering.”

To cut costs, the Student Center design scrapped original plans for separate buildings, and consolidated them into one structure, Ratcliff said. Price Center has faced similar challenges, forcing engineers to consider structural and mechanical alternatives such as using less steel and making more intrusive designs.

The expansion’s second phase, scheduled to begin next spring, will include improvements to Student Center and expansion of Groundwork Books, the General Store Co-op, the Food Co-op and the bike shop. A $39 quarterly referendum fee approved by students in 2003 pays for the second phase, according to Ratcliff.

When fully completed, the project will have built multiple facilities, including a 24-hour study lounge with a computer lab, group-study rooms and commuter student resources, late-night restaurants and cafes and 84 additional student organization offices as well as a student organization resource center.

The University Centers Advisory Board chose the cuisine type through feedback from students, faculty and staff, according to John Muir College alumnus and former UCAB representative Jeremy Cogan.

After receiving a variety of of proposals, which included representatives evaluating menus, prices and sampling the restaurant’s food, UCAB decided on Royal Thai, which has locations in Orange County, La Jolla and downtown San Diego, Ratcliff said. The university and Royal Thai are finalizing lease agreements.