Construction crews are nearing completion on the new two-story dining hall, named Eagle Landing Cafeteria, which is set to replace Kerr Cafeteria next January.
Eagle Landing Cafeteria will feature seven in-house restaurants in a food-court style dining experience, as well as the most seating capacity of any UNT cafeteria at around 730 seats. In an email, Dining Communications Director Alyssa Torrance provided a list and description of each dining option as follows:
- Wood Grill: Grill concept with a variety of grilled burgers & sandwiches, fries, etc.
- Avenue A: Homestyle restaurant with fried chicken, mac & cheese, smoked BBQ, plus breakfast all-day.
- Leaf: Plant-forward concept featuring greens and herbs grown at Mean Green Acres, our campus organic non-GMO hydroponic garden, as well as fresh veggies, salads, soups and plenty of vegan options.
- La Mesa: Latin fusion concept with tortilla machine, fresh salsa station, etc.
- Bamboo Basil: Asian-inspired wok concept featuring rice & noodle dishes.
- Clark Bakery at Eagle Landing: Bakery concept with fresh breads and pastries, warm desserts, ice cream & all your favorite Clark Bakery treats.
- Cibo Fresco: Italian concept with a pizza oven and pasta toss.
Kerr cafeteria will suspend operations on Dec. 10, 2020. In December and January, Kerr staff will transition to Eagle Landing and participate in training for new kitchen operations.
University officials do not have a specific opening date for Eagle Landing but anticipate the cafeteria will be operational by the start of the spring semester in January.
“This cafeteria will change the way people look at dining on college campuses,” said Daniel Armitage Division of Student Affairs Associate Vice President, Auxiliary Services. “Eagle Landing features the highest quality commercial kitchens I’ve ever seen in a college cafeteria.”
Eagle Landing will incorporate seating arrangements not found in the other cafeterias, like a lofted seating area overlooking the main floor and a large eagle-shaped table. The kitchen will feature new additions as well, like a wood fire pizza oven and wok stations for stir-fried food.
Armitage said construction crews will reach “substantial completion” in November when the building is ready for employees but not yet fully operational. After that, crews will inspect the building and conduct a “burn-in” session where workers will test cooking equipment.
The university does not have a set plan for Kerr Cafeteria after its closure, but Armitage said potential plans range from a learning lab or moving Mean Greens Cafeteria into the space after renovations.
The Union Corner Store and Which Wich will eventually relocate into a space behind Eagle Landing, though Armitage could not provide a date for the move due to scheduling issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Their former location on the Union’s first floor will be replaced by another restaurant option yet to be selected.
“The new cafeteria is not a retail option,” Armitage said. “There is one 3,000 square-foot retail option […] The dining hall is really there to replace Kerr. However, it is a completely different concept of food. What you’re going to be seeing is [seven] very specific restaurant concepts that you still get into with one swipe of your card.”
The university initially made plans to renovate Kerr, Armitage said, but planners believed the estimated costs of that project warranted creating a new cafeteria instead. The Eagle Landing project will cost around $24 million to complete, but will not impact student meal plan prices in the future.
Kerr Cafeteria worker Lucy Welterlen said she is excited to begin working in a nicer cafeteria.
“Kerr is really old and a lot of our appliances are out of date,” Welterlen said. “It’s really inconvenient, so I’m excited to work somewhere with new appliances. It’s right across the road so the change in location isn’t bad.”
Kerr Cafeteria seats around 460 people at max capacity and can serve about 4,420 patrons a day, Armitage said. He said Eagle Landing could serve an estimated 5,500 to 6,000 patrons a day and seat around 270 more people with dedicated seating on the second floor.
Rehabilitation studies sophomore Elliott Kalmus said they believe Kerr is still a good choice for food, but the university could benefit from extra dining space.
“I don’t think UNT needs a new cafeteria,” Kalmus said. “But I do like the idea. We only have so much space left in UNT with all these new freshmen. I think it makes sense to make a new cafeteria that’s bigger, like how we have new dorms.”
Other Dining Services projects, however, will not come to fruition next semester. Torrance said the location of Einstein Bros. Bagels at the College of Visual Arts and Design building has faced setbacks due to troubles with the contractor and the pandemic.
“We are eager to begin construction on Einstein Bros. Bagels in the Art Building,” Torrance said in an email to the North Texas Daily. “Unfortunately, some unforeseen setbacks with the contractor and construction partners led to this project’s delay, [and] this was further compounded by the pandemic. As soon as we receive a more definitive timeline from UNT Facilities, we’ll share that with the campus community. We want Einstein’s on campus as much as you do.”
Featured Image: Construction continues on the new dining hall, Eagle Landing, as seen from the steps of the Business Leadership Building on Nov. 10, 2020. Image by John Anderson