Students React to Commons Renovations

Words by Lauren N. Colie
Images by Scott Porush

VCU gave the University Student Commons a facelift this summer, conducting a full renovation of the Park Place Food Court. The most obvious alteration is the replacement of Zoca with Taco Bell, but students are noticing other changes.

Sophomore Josh Klimmek said that, while the appearance of the space improved, the design is inefficient. The restaurant facings are no longer separated from the seating area, but are instead arranged like a mall food court.

“The lines now extend where you’re trying to sit,” Klimmek said. “It’s not very well laid out.”

However, junior Danielle Williams said the new layout is more sensible. She said the new seating area is roomier, cleaner and more open, and the cash registers for each establishment make it simpler to get your food.

“The lines are longer, but now you pay at each place. And Nao and Zen has more options,” Williams said.

Nao and Zen and Chick-fil-A returned with expanded menus, but many students are more interested in testing the new Taco Bell.

Senior Diego Hernandez said he is not impressed with the new addition. He said he chose to order from Chick-fil-A because of what he calls “Taco Bell horror stories.” He said some students complain that Taco Bell frequently runs out of items and ingredients.

“What’s the point of a Taco Bell if you can’t get a crunch wrap supreme?” Hernandez said.

Sophomore Tess Guthrie disagrees. She ate her first Taco Bell meal at VCU and enjoyed it.

“I’ll definitely be eating here again,” Guthrie said, laughing.

Other students voice a familiar complaint about purchasing food with meal plans. Many criticize about the duration for which the dining locations are open, and the limitation on when those locations will accept meal swipes.

Junior Erica Messenger is especially frustrated by the timing of swipe hours. She said the limitation is troublesome as an off-campus resident because her only break is often around noon, before many locations begin accepting swipes.

“I can’t always run up to Shafer,” Messenger said. “Limitations on swipes means sometimes I can’t get food until I go home in the evening.”

Not all students mind the rules regarding meal plans at the Park Place Food Court. Freshman Sue Ko said she is willing to spend her dining dollars on Nao and Zen as an occasional alternative to Shafer.

Junior Taylor Mayton said Nao and Zen does not taste the same, but she approves of the overall renovation.

“This is definitely the best version of the Commons so far,” Mayton said.

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