Food court to be remodeled summer term

Portland State’s Auxiliary Services met with the Smith Memorial Student Union Advisory Board and Aramark representatives Tuesday to discuss remodeling plans for the food court in the Smith Center taking place this summer.

Portland State’s Auxiliary Services met with the Smith Memorial Student Union Advisory Board and Aramark representatives Tuesday to discuss remodeling plans for the food court in the Smith Center taking place this summer.

Aramark will replace Sodexho as the food-service provider at PSU and will remodel the food court to its own standards. The deadline for the remodel is the week before fall term classes begin, during new student week, said Carol Martin, outreach coordinator for auxiliary services, who coordinated the meeting.

During the remodel students taking summer classes will have limited dining options, with Subway the only restaurant unaffected by the remodel.

Subway will remain open through summer term, while the rest of the food court will be closed through most of the summer. Students, faculty and staff will need to eat elsewhere, Martin said.

“This project is under a strict timeframe,” Martin said. “We need to really fast track everything to make the deadline for new student week.”

The fall-term new-student week begins Sept. 17, giving Aramark and Fortis, the construction company contracted for the job, just over two and a half months to complete the overhaul.

Any input on physical plans for the remodeled space needed to be given to Aramark by the end of the day Tuesday to be considered for the project, Martin said.

The construction plans, drawn up by the local architectural firm SERA, included the demolition of several portions of the food court to create wider aisles in the space.

At the meeting, SERA designer Christina Tello taped the construction plans to the walls and explained SERA’s attempts to address issues of better traffic flow and an aesthetic facelift.

“We’re trying to clean up the overall look of the food court,” Tello said, pointing out the white tiles that would be installed on the ceiling and the proposed Marmoleum flooring. Marmoleum is a linoleum made from natural ingredients.

A total of six cashiers will work at four stations throughout the area, capable of ringing up all purchases. Staffing levels will be roughly double that of Sodexho’s, said Paul Luedke, Aramark’s district manager.

A full-service Starbucks will move to the outer northeast corner of the food court, which now houses Portland Fresh, an organic food convenience store. Customers will form a line against the east wall of the space, with orders being delivered from the north. The Starbucks will have two espresso machines, and every effort will be made to keep customer lines from obstructing traffic in the busy hallway, Luedke said.

The northeast corner of the space, including Noah’s Bagels and Freshen’s Smoothies, will stay open after the rest of the food court has closed, although the hours of operation have not yet been determined, Luedke said.

“We’ll have people out there the first couple of weeks,” Luedke said, “directing traffic.”

Kristine Wise, manager of auxiliary retail services, said she was cautiously optimistic that a solution could be found to avoid a massive pile-up of people during the school’s busiest times.

“During the busy times of year, like finals week,” Wise said, “that’s when everyone needs coffee the most.”

As the main route between Cramer and Neuberger halls, the first-floor hallway of Smith Memorial Student Union could easily get jammed, Wise said.

Luedke and Aramark Director Bethany Bigelow also revealed detailed menus for the group to consider at the meeting.

Sbarro, a national chain serving pizza, pasta and salad, will replace What’s Cookin’, a dining grill located at the south side of the food court.

Luedke said he would like to see pizzas made throughout the day, complete with dough tossing.

Aramark’s Chipotle-style Mexican restaurant, Zoca, will replace the current Sodexho pizza kiosk.

Zoca, which features 99-cent tacos, is where Aramark can try to keep prices affordable, Bigelow said.

Recipes and customer cost is completely under the restaurant’s control, she said.

Chains in the food court like Subway and Noah’s Bagels operate independently, and separate their own prices and quality standards, Bigelow said.

A self-service salad bar and convenience kiosk will go into the space now occupied by Noah’s Bagels. The produce in the bar will be local and organic, Luedke said, as much as is seasonally possible. Signs will indicate which local farms grew the produce, he said.

An Asian-cuisine station will stay in the center of the food court, featuring Mongolian-style cooked-to-order noodles, bento boxes and sushi, according to plans, Luedke said.