The Clayton University Center will shut down its dining operations, event spaces and offices starting in spring 2023 until spring 2025. Hawk’s Nest will also close temporarily in mid-November until students return for the spring semester.
In mid-November, fencing will go up around the east side of the UC to start preparing the building for site work.
Joe Klocek, interim director of planning, design and construction, said the UC is set to re-open in 2025 with new features such as a central staircase connecting floors and dining options on all three floors.
Director of Student Center Facilities Carol Hill said the remodel will also include a “club hub”: a dynamic center where students can work, organize meetings and have access to writing materials.
During the construction period, the UC’s two current dining spaces, Lower and Upper Cort, will be closing.
Three of the retail options at Upper Cort will be permanently moved to Hawk’s Nest in Lamberton Hall. These include Chick-N-Bap, Tres Habaneros (currently Salsa Rico) and Mein Bowl, which will join Hawk’s Nest in the dining space and replace the outside terrace space to make room for the new additions.
Klocek said the Great Hall in Lamberton will remain unchanged throughout construction but may be used for future dining space as needed. Hawk’s Nest construction hours are said to be from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Lehigh’s Path to Prominence plan, announced by former President John Simon in 2016, outlines a major renovation for the UC with “the intent of transforming it into a more modern, more beautiful, and more functional space for students,” according to the plan.
Kevin L. Clayton, ’84 ’13P, and his wife, Lisa A. Clayton, ’13P, jump-started the public phase of Lehigh’s more than $1 billion campaign with a $20 million gift to fund the renovation and expansion of the UC, according to the GO Lehigh Campaign website.
Though the UC is currently in its design phase, Chris Cook, vice president of strategic planning and initiatives said most decisions happened over the summer to gauge how many students will need to be accommodated throughout renovations.
The last major UC renovation took place in 1956 and since then, Hill said technical issues need to be addressed like outdated air conditioning that will become HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems, old windows, ADA compliance and student-centered working spaces.
She said there is a lack of large gathering spaces for students in the building, so the UC renovations will address these changes.
“We’re imagining this to be that ‘living room’ space,” Hill said.
Although site work won’t start until mid-November, UC offices were already moved to Christmas-Saucon Hall over a six week period during the summer to alleviate the stress of moving out closer to the renovations, Hill said.
From July to August, she said the UC offices were consulted in meetings as well as the design process.
Klocek said one of the design team’s primary goals is to refresh and modernize the interior of the UC while maintaining as much of the 1800s character as possible. On the exterior, the design goal is to restore the building and its original details without making many noticeable changes.
“We are not necessarily walking back (to the 1800s design), but we’re sort of going back in and reimagining that, and in a lot of instances, trying to restore it back to its original character,” Klocek said.
Cook said students can expect a “brighter, lighter, and significantly more modern (interior) in terms of amenities.”
With the closure of the UC and Hawk’s Nest, pressure is placed on the other dining operations on campus, such as Rathbone Hall and the various cafes and food trucks to service students, Klocek said.
Hill said it is important to recognize the adjustment period at the start of the fall semester.
“We’re much busier at traditional meal times until students become familiar with their own schedules and how they adjust to their own meals,” Hill said. “So we have always experienced there being an adjustment to the lines after the first four weeks of classes. That being said, we also know that we have more options on this campus than most to be able to eat.”
To mitigate long lines and wait times, Hawk’s Nest will be extending its hours to be from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. after renovations and Rathbone Hall to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, according to Klocek.
Hill said that after the UC reopens, what is now Lower Cort will be transformed into food-court style retail dining space instead of a traditional dining hall.
With new dining pressures, Klocek said there will be a third food truck added to campus and, depending on how students react to the renovations in the spring, plans are subject to change.
“We are doing our absolute best to try and mitigate all the things that can go wrong with construction,” Klocek said. “Though, there’s always something that you don’t think about or that happens when you’re working in an existing building.”