By Julia Guest

Cowell and Stevenson students will soon have an incentive to make the trek up “Cardiac Hill.” Cowell/Stevenson Dining Hall will begin much-anticipated renovations on May 3, leaving the Merrill Cultural Center as the closest dining option, which will be refitted as a temporary eatery.

It has been 40 years since the dining hall has undergone an extensive remodeling project, according to Jim Carter, college administrative officer for Cowell and Stevenson Colleges. Carter, along with the University Dining Services team, first discussed plans for renovation in 2006.

The renovations will modify the dining hall to include a more spacious serving area and outside patio seating. The Fireside Lounge and Cowell Coffee Shop will be closed during the reconstruction due to seismic construction. The remodeled dining hall is scheduled to be re-opened in March of 2009.

In addition, the physical planning department on campus contracted campus architects who will redo the kitchen area to provide updated equipment for workers.

“The kitchen is extremely taxed,” said Candy Berlin, program coordinator for UC Santa Cruz Dining Services. “We want to make it more exciting, more vibrant.”

New additions to the menu will also be made in order to maintain current student demands, Carter explained. The kitchen will be exposed to students behind serving counters, and will feature a Mongolian grill, a wood-fired oven for pizza, and made-to-order sushi options. The organic food options of Cowell/Stevenson Dining Hall will also be expanded with fresh farm produce at the salad bar and in other meals.

The Dining Services staff would like to promote the dining hall’s “green” aspects, Berlin said, noting that architects will use recyclable materials to make the renovations.

Other improvements include lighting and sound technology for stage performances as well as new eating hours and windows that can be opened. The new entrance will be located where students normally enter for monthly Cowell and Stevenson College Nights. In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, an elevator will replace the stairs students now use when coming from Stevenson College.

“I’m optimistic people are really going to like the dining hall when it’s done,” Carter said. “I think it’ll increase traffic flow in and out. People will be happy about being able to sit outside when the weather is good. It’ll look much more attractive.”

At an interactive focus group in March of this year, Cowell and Stevenson students voiced what they wanted to see in the temporary Merrill Cultural Center dining hall. Students suggested keeping the vegan and vegetarian options normally present at the Cowell/Stevenson Dining Hall, Carter said, and they liked the idea of keeping it sustainable and organic.

Blueprints for the new dining hall are now available for student viewing in the dining hall.

The Merrill Cultural Center will be open for dining Monday through Friday for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for dinner from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. During the renovations period, Cowell and Stevenson students are welcome at the Merrill and Crown Dining hall and at the other dining halls on campus.

Second-year Cowell student Katy Parsons looks forward to the new additions to the Cowell Dining Hall, but doesn’t like the idea of walking to Merrill.

“When I want to eat, I want to eat,” Parsons said. “It’s having the comfort of going up the stairs [to Cowell] taken away from you.”

Berlin, however, wants to pay special attention to student feedback, and learned about students’ needs through the Food Service Advisers.

“Cowell is consistently rated as the best [dining hall] on campus,” she said. “We want to make sure we don’t slip.”