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Creating an Urban Underground on a College Campus

Creating an Urban Underground on a College Campus



THE BIG IDEA: How do you redesign a staid traditional student union dining area to make it a trendy place to be for today's college students? Purdue University, which has already completely revamped its campus residential dining (winning a Best Concepts Best of Show award in the process in 2006), has now completely reinvented its Memorial Union's dining profile.

In doing so, it created an underground urban streetscape (the venue is located in the Memorial Union basement) featuring six retail restaurants. A mix of self-created and established licensed brands, the result is a dining environment that dazzles with both international flair — a key to attracting today's sophisticated college student — and an emphasis on fresh and organic ingredients.

Truly a student union dining mix for the 21st century, Union Commons is now a multi-concept destination restaurant and gathering place for Purdue students. It features ethnic outlets La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill, Lemongrass (Thai/Vietnamese flavored wok-fired entrees and pho soups) and Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen, as well as Flatbreads with its salads, soups and sandwiches made with artisan breads baked in a gas-fired open-hearth oven, and the retro-diner Pappy's, where burgers, fries, shakes and other classic favorites are menued.

The mix is rounded out by a series of beverage-focused concepts: Oasis Café (which features Seattle's Best Coffee products along with freshly baked pastries and grab-and-go wraps and sandwiches), Starbucks and Zia Juice (fresh squeezed juices, smoothies and healthy snacks). An upscale c-store called the Urban Market completes the mix. It not only sells organic, sustainable and natural packaged foods but has a hot food counter serving healthy/organic dishes, grab-and-go cold foods (sandwiches, wraps, salads) and a cereal concept called Loops.


Purdue Memorial Union

Gary C. Goldberg
director of dining services

Tom Coleman
manager of retail dining

Bruce Haumesser
executive chef

Terry Clayton
assistant director for facilities

Bob Mesher of Mesher Sching & Associates

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