Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.


Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.


Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.


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Tearing down the terrace

TDR restructures look and layout while students hope safety addressed
Caleb Ogilvie

American University’s Terrace Dining Room will soon be a space that fosters work, socialization and relaxation, Senior Director of Dining and Auxiliary Services Ann Marie Powell said.

Dining staff will add a variety of new seating arrangements over the summer, meant to create new atmospheres, Powell said.

“I think the important thing I would point out to everyone is what we’re trying to work at is ‘How do we create a TDR of tomorrow?” Powell said. “Not just, ‘What do we do right now?’”

Students will see exactly what the renovations will bring in the Fall 2024 semester, Lou Christopher, resident district manager for dining services provider Chartwells, said.

Before the dining hall closed, Christopher said the first floor of Mary Graydon Center would turn into a makeshift dining hall until the end of the semester with food stations and tables. According to an AU Dining Instagram post from March 22, TDR closed March 30 and 31 for the remainder of the semester to complete renovations. Food began being served in MGC 128 on April 1, according to the post.

The renovations are set to create a variety of new seating arrangements, make kitchen spaces more visible and replace most cashiers with automatic turnstiles at the entrance, according to a walkthrough of the layout provided by Christopher, Powell and Assistant Vice President of Campus Auxiliary Services and Airlie Michael Scher.

While students study, socialize and eat in the renovated seating areas, they’ll also see food being prepared behind some of the stations, Powell said. The renovations are set to include new open-style food preparation areas scattered throughout TDR, where seating areas will surround kitchens that are visible behind food stations.

“There are different things you’re going to do at each one of those tables [or] smaller cafes,” Scher said.

Scher said seating in the new TDR will somewhat resemble what the area surrounding Panera Bread on MGC’s first floor looks like. He said tables will have different heights and lengths to accommodate the many uses students may have for spaces in the dining hall, such as studying.

In the past, TDR has faced issues with proper sanitation. According to a March 2022 health inspection report, TDR didn’t store foods properly, didn’t protect against cross-contamination and had issues with
refrigerators and sinks. In September 2022, another health inspection report said cold foods weren’t stored at proper temperatures and the garbage disposal was out of order.

Christopher said these inspections were a cumulative assessment of dining quality both in MGC and in TDR. Following those inspections, AU dining staff now has monthly inspections, which can be found on the Dine On Campus webpage. Powell said a new dining staff position was also added to ensure staff check temperatures and understand how to sanitize properly.

Some students say planned changes don’t do enough to address their concerns about food quality.

Sophomore Greer Westfield said she likes the new look of TDR after seeing renovation renderings on AU Kitchen’s website and on the TVs in TDR. However, she said she worries there will be no improvement in the food quality.

“They showed all the bar stools and upgrades; it looks cool,” Westfield said. “But I’m kind of worried that they’re not gonna upgrade the quality of the food and just like the aesthetics.”

First-year Olivia Colliton-Savina said improving the food is more important than changing the current layout of TDR.

“I hope that they recognize that it’s not really the location, and that they kind of listen to the students’ complaints, about the food mainly, because I could care less about what the dining hall looks like now,” Colliton-Savina said. “So I just kind of hope that the food also improves and not just the space.”

AU Dining staff used the results of surveys to determine the renovations, according to Powell. The website does not specify when the survey was conducted. The last survey AU Dining advertised on social media was a “Voice to Vision” survey in October 2022.

The renovated layout and food will be amid white tiles, light-colored and patterned beams and wooden trim, according to renderings on the AU Kitchen’s website.

First-year Jackson Miller said he feels the renovations to TDR are unnecessary and worries its new design will be too chaotic.

“TDR—the way it is right now—has very few pros or cons,” Miller said. “It’s totally neutral. The new area looks like it’ll be a little shinier. A little more visually appealing when you first go there, but I feel like that kind of shiny vibe will become grating after a while.”

Powell said adding open-style kitchens allows students to see the cooking process at all stations and sit near where their food is being made.

“With the new TDR, things will be around the [stations],” Powell said. “There may be some counter space for conversations around it.”

Claire Gover

This will be the first complete remodel in decades, as TDR’s layout and structure have not been changed in almost 40 years, according to a Nov. 15, 2023, finance memo. However, Christopher said some recent additions to TDR will remain.

Many of the renovated and visible cooking stations will also feature new cooking equipment. Christopher said updates to cooking equipment were necessary and, in some cases, overdue.

“The dishwasher is fairly new, so we’re reusing that,” Christopher said. “The rotisserie oven that we put out is fairly new, so we’re reusing that.”

Prior to its renovations, TDR was split into two halves. Each half of the dining hall had seating, tables along the walls and windows and a small upper level with more seating below a skylight ceiling.

Before renovations started in December 2023, one-half of TDR primarily included stations that remained consistent in the type of food served, including pizza and salads. The other half previously provided meals that would change from day-to-day and meal-to-meal, including stations such as the United Table, Grill and Delicious Without.

According to the TDR renovations page, many of the stations’ names and concepts will remain the same. However, AU Dining staff will offer options like daily featured sandwiches at the deli station, according to AU Kitchen’s website.

Senior Massimo Lotruglio said he enjoys the consistency that can be found at many of those stations.

“One of the things that I really like about TDR is having all the options that are always consistently there,” Lotruglio said. “Like you always have a salad bar, you always have pizza, things like that. I wish we had more things like that.”

Some structural changes were underway beginning in December 2023. AU Dining staff began constructing a back-of-house kitchen where stations added last semester, such as the rotisserie station, previously were, according to the Nov. 15, 2023, memo. This larger kitchen, complete with storage, a walk-in freezer and a walk-in cooler, will be built in one corner, according to a floor plan provided by AU, Chartwells and Vision Builders Design.

Powell said the early construction of this kitchen meant temporarily reduced seating and a new TDR layout, with stations dispersed at various locations throughout the dining hall.

First-year Katie Hamilton said she hopes the TDR she returns to the next semester will be worth the lack of seating during the Spring 2024 semester.

“I came back and there was just kind of a random wall up and I was really confused,” Hamilton said. “And now I’m sad that there’s not a lot of places to sit, because I never thought I’d be competing for a seat in TDR. But I’m looking forward to seeing if there are any new options because I mean, it’s TDR and I think some new options would be good.”

According to a Nov. 15, 2023, memo, the university planned to provide additional dining dollars and pop-ups, such as food trucks and on-campus meals, in various locations at busy times to compensate for the disruptions stemming from the renovations.

Despite the extensive changes to the aesthetic and seating of TDR, students can expect to see familiar faces when they dine in the Fall 2024 semester. Lotruglio said he has an appreciation for the workers in TDR, providing him with a friendly face every time he’s in the dining hall.

“It’s really nice, especially as a student when you’re dealing with a lot going on to have people that are calm and nice and want to talk to you,” Lotruglio said. “And it’s just that consistency that keeps me sane.”

Caleb Ogilvie
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About the Contributor
Claire Gover
Claire Gover, Staff Writer
Claire Gover (She/Her) is a Communications major. Gover enjoys photography, music, dogs, and any kind of adventure.