Fiscal Constraints Halt Plaza Construction

    Students wait in line to purchase food items at Sierra Summit. The popular John Muir College dining hall won’t undergo renovations until this summer due to a delay in construction plans at Plaza Cafe.

    Due to financial difficulties, renovations at Plaza Cafe have been suspended indefinitely, prompting campus officials to delay similar construction efforts at Sierra Summit and El Mercado. Both dining facilities will remain in operation for the entirety of the academic year.

    According to Housing and Dining Services Executive Director Mark Cunningham, the Housing, Dining and Hospitality Service is a self-supporting enterprise that must plan projects within its budget without outside funding sources, and the allotted funds for the Plaza Cafe project proved insufficient.

    “We set a specific budget for the Plaza Cafe renovation but, as with any construction project, and in particular with a major renovation of our largest and oldest dining facility, we are subject to the impacts of the local construction industry in terms of costs of materials and labor combined with the amount of work that we wanted to accomplish,” Cunningham said in an e-mail. “Unfortunately, after working closely with our selected architects to look for every possible solution, we were not able to bring the overall project to our available budget.”

    DHHS will be working with the UCSD Facilities Design and Construction group to assess alternative options for continuing the Plaza Cafe renovations at a lower cost.

    Since planning of the renovations of Sierra Summit and Plaza Cafe were sequential, their timelines were directly connected.

    Cunningham said the hold on the Plaza project will directly affect the timeliness of the Sierra Summit project’s completion.

    “We had to approach them this way because we couldn’t have both facilities offline at the same time, so Sierra Summit had to be completed before Plaza could start,” he said. “With the Plaza renovation on hold, that no longer poses an issue and we can stay open through the school year and not inconvenience our customers by having Sierra Summit closed.”

    Sierra Summit and El Mercado renovations are slated to begin immediately following the 2008-09 academic year. However, this delay will not change the size or scope for the renovation of the John Muir College dining halls.

    These projects will update 40-year-old infrastructure that is becoming costly to replace and bring the dining halls to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification standards, which measure the sustainability of buildings.

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