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Turnout high for global market café focus groups

Kelly Hayes McAlonie, director of UB's Capital Planning Group and member of the steering committee for the global market café, helps catch students’ attention for the focus groups on the project. Photo: Cannon Design

By MICHAEL ANDREI

Published October 12, 2017

“This building symbolizes UB’s mission and commitment to international and global education, and we are pleased that interest in this project is so strong.”
Graham Hammill, chair
Global Market Cafe Steering Committee

Nearly 1,300 members of the UB community responded yesterday to an invitation to provide their thoughts, viewpoints and suggestions on the global market café project.

UB students, faculty and staff took part in focus groups sponsored by the café’s steering committee and design team that were held throughout the day in the Student Union. Following presentations on the project by Cannon Design, campus community members engaged in conversations with the architects, asking questions and offering suggestions.

In addition, participants were offered a broad sampling of internationally inspired dishes prepared by Campus Dining & Shops (CDS) to provide a taste of the types of cuisines that will be available in the global market café.

“We are very pleased that so many members of the campus community — 1,286 to be exact — took the time to attend these information sessions on the global market café,” said Graham Hammill, vice provost for educational affairs and dean of the graduate school.

“Those who came were not only seeking to learn more about this phase of the Heart of the Campus initiative … they also offered many thoughtful comments and suggestions, not only on potential menu items, but also on the design of the global market café itself,” Hammill said.

“This building symbolizes UB’s mission and commitment to international and global education, and we are pleased that interest in this project is so strong.”

A Campus Dining & Shops chef serves a sample of chopped Thai salad with sesame garlic dressing to a member of a focus group offering feedback on the global market café project. Photo: Cannon Design

Hammill, who is chair of the project’s steering committee, said information and suggestions received through the focus groups will be carefully reviewed by members of the committee and the design team.

“We want to continue to emphasize a key point about this project,” he said. “Global market café design and cuisine will be chosen based on a collaboration between Cannon Design and the campus community. The facility will be designed by the UB community for the UB community.

“Input from the campus community does not end with the focus groups and survey,” he added. The conversation will continue as the project moves forward.”

More than 600 participants also completed brief surveys to help CDS plan food service design and gather input on cuisine choices for the global market café.

Among the multiple internationally themed food choices offered during the event were chopped Thai salad with sesame garlic dressing, chicken Biryani with naan, and open-faced carnitas with arbol sauce.

“The great response to our survey will help us plan our menu options,” said Jeff Brady, CDS executive director.

“We are keeping the survey open through midnight Friday to allow more time for members of the campus community who haven’t responded to please do so. We welcome and encourage everyone’s input.”

The survey is available online.

Peter McCarthy, associate vice president for Cannon Design, said the design team was happy to see so many UB students, faculty and staff take part in the focus groups.

“We are excited to see this level of enthusiasm by the UB community for the project,” said McCarthy, who holds a master’s degree in architecture from UB. “Gathering input through a single-day event is a challenge, so this strong turnout is very helpful to us.”

“The diversity of the attendees mirrors the diversity of the project’s intent,” noted Luke Johnson of Cannon Design.

Johnson, who also holds a MArch degree from UB, added that members of the UB community with whom he spoke throughout the day ranged from first-year and graduate students to faculty and staff.

“We were impressed by the many thoughtful and insightful ideas and suggestions that came from the UB students,” he said.

“When you cast this wide of a net, you get a lot of pretty interesting comments,” noted Valerie Costello, a Cannon project engineer and graduate of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“Many of the comments we heard reinforced the existing theories and goals for this project, and mirror the planning committee’s ideas.”

Hammill said some of the directions the global market café could take involve the Buffalo community.

“One possibility to consider might be coordinating on an incubator with the West Side Bazaar,” he said. “They are full of diversity and have a wide range of authentic international foods and cuisines to choose from.

“It’s a great place to take a friend, and we believe the global market café can offer that type of experience here on campus.”

Peter McCarthy, associate vice president for Cannon Design, presents information on the global market café to UB students during focus groups in the Student Union. Photo: Cannon Design

All three members of Cannon’s design team noted that one of the most frequently mentioned concerns among students is connectivity.

“There is a very high level of interest among students in physical connections and wayfinding between this structure and other, existing UB buildings,” McCarthy said. “Enabling people to move seamlessly from building to building aligns with the design and is a major project goal.”

McCarthy and Johnson also said achieving sustainability throughout the global market café was another key point raised by UB students.

“There is a high awareness among UB students in foodways and sustainability from big picture down to individual students’ decisions on sustainability,” McCarthy said. “Sustainability is central to this project, from design, sourcing materials, how it is to be built, to its energy footprint.”

As the third phase of the Heart of the Campus (HOTC) initiative, the global market café would create a “front door” to the university around and under the existing overhangs of Capen Hall and the Founders Plaza courtyard between Norton and Capen halls.

As envisioned, the global market café would be about 23,000 square feet, about double the size of the restaurant, dining room and kitchen area of Bert’s, the existing CDS restaurant in Talbert Hall. It would seat 375 people.

The area, which would be glassed-in and accessible from the first floor of Norton, would replace Bert’s and the New York Deli, also located in Talbert.