Published June 14, 2017
Take two of UB’s most reliable assets: its growing international character and its students’ unabashed love of food. Then add Campus Dining & Shops’ (CDS) ability to get things done.
The result is a solid plan to build a Global Market that would bring at least five authentic, interactive, international restaurants to one of the busiest crossroads on the North Campus. And if CDS has its way, the new market would be one of the most striking areas on the university landscape.
The Global Market is the next phase in the Heart of the Campus (HOTC) project, the UB 2020 initiative to enhance the student learning experience by creating a “learning landscape” in the center of the academic spine. UB administrators say each project in HOTC is about an improved service level and academic experience for students.
Jeff Brady, CDS executive director, says he expects the Global Market to be up and running sometime in 2020. And when it is, it has the potential to transform the appearance and atmosphere of Founders Plaza, a major junction of academic and administrative life on the North Campus.
“If you have ever seen the traffic there, it’s incredible, especially with all the students and faculty and staff getting off the buses,” Brady says of the preferred location for the Global Market.
The exact design and details are still to come. CDS will send out a Request for Qualifications to architects this summer as a preliminary step to obtaining specific design proposals from qualified companies. This fall, CDS will circulate a survey asking the UB community to rank types of cuisine according to personal preference. Brady says results of the survey will guide CDS regarding the kinds of restaurants to be featured.
CDS also has created a steering committee of faculty and staff members to review and recommend designs later this summer. Committee chair Graham Hammill, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School, says one of the most interesting challenges for the committee will be to consider how the design can best convey UB’s mission and vision.
“For example, there is a lot of excellent faculty research on food and issues such as global poverty, creating healthy communities and building sustainable food systems,” Hammill says. “Ideally, the new dining facility would integrate impactful research being done at UB into the overall design.”
And the intangibles of this addition to the North Campus are substantial, according to Hammill.
“The committee hopes that the new Global Market will be more than an exciting dining facility,” he says. “Situated at one of the major crossroads on North Campus, the Global Market has the potential to become a gateway to the campus that conveys UB’s identity as a premiere international university.”
If CDS’ past performance is any indication, the UB community will have a dramatic, landscape-changing facility that not only provides quality international food to a growing international population, but a year-round infusion of energy to a section of campus trying to lose its overly institutional feel.
“We’re hoping it is going to be a glass atrium,” says Brady, who says UB will “self-fund” all but a small part of the project, another indication it is on a reliable and predictable schedule.
“I have always felt we did a disservice to the students on campus,” he says. “So much of what we serve is American food, if you will. We’ve changed a little bit. But you look at the ethnicity of the campus, and it’s so international and diverse.
“You look at the students from India, for example. They come on campus a week earlier than anyone else for orientation. The first day they are here, they get a break at noon. We send them over to the Student Union to eat pizza. And they are in shock. ‘Where is my homeland food?’”
Brady says his organization has always wanted to do something about that, especially with UB’s growing global community.
“That’s one of the big reasons for this,” he says. “But we want to make sure what we do is authentic. We don’t want to Americanize any of it. We’ve seen other universities that have done that, and it hasn’t been successful.”
Again, exact details — both in design and specific restaurants (Brady calls them “platforms”) — are to be determined, depending on the survey results, and the architectural and design plans still to be submitted. But Brady and CDS Executive Chef Neal Plazio have a few things in mind:
“I think it’s going to change the feeling of Founders Plaza,” Plazio says. “It’s going to liven it up. Last summer, I was visiting another campus. They have an area there kind of similar. They call it being ‘post-Soviet.’ There is more variety in the architecture here at UB, but it’s something like that because right now, it’s all academic, so this Global Market with people eating will liven up the whole area.”
A food court too often has little interaction between the people in the restaurants and the customers, according to Plazio.
“That’s what we found with C3,” he says. “The most popular food stations are the ones where people can mingle and be part of the interaction with the cooking. The pasta station, the Blue Dragon. Students are there while the staff is cooking. It’s just more interaction.”
Brady and Plazio see the Global Market as something more organic, and definitely authentic. They like the feel and business model of the West Side Bazaar in Buffalo, with its small, incubators of local flavor, both in food and ambiance. Brady talks about a plant wall or an inside waterfall — something with “lots of glass.” He admires the irrigated wall with living plants inside the Delaware North Building in downtown Buffalo
“We want our Global Market to have some identity to it,” he says. “We’re thinking maybe an Indian station with tandoori and a Korean station with Raman noodles — and we can have people sit right around the restaurant to watch the preparation going on. That’s part of the learning experience, too.”
In the end, the bottom line and final judgment come down to the students.
“Students today are so much more educated about food compared with five years ago, and there are many reasons why,” Brady says. “They all watch the Food Network. They’re willing to step out of their comfort zone and try worldwide cuisines.
“One of the things students look for when they’re searching for a university is award-winning food and dining programs,” he explains. “That makes a big difference. And that’s what a lot of universities are striving for: to win these awards.
“When the students come to college, their expectations are very high. So you have to deliver,” he says. “So this Global Market has to be something that really delivers. And I think it’s going to put UB on the map, as far as dining.
“We’re extremely excited about this.”
If you have not visited the West Side Bazaar on Grant Street near Ferry, please do. This would be a wonderful opportunity for UB to encourage entrepreneurship by welcoming teams of refugees to share the space.
Rather than have three permanent residents, the possibility to host different countries each day of the week could be explored.
Thank you for widening the cultural experience for all.