Tonight's grand opening of a new campus nightspot is six months ahead of schedule, with hoopla and food, all because--you asked for it.
When students responded to a Dining Services survey last spring, they expressed a strong desire for a late-night dining spot in the Quad. Dining Services began to develop plans for a new facility, targeting the fall of 1997 for the opening.
Enter the Tangible Change Committee, a group formed by the Undergraduate Assembly last semester to help facilitate campus life improvements. The committee, working with the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life, asked students to identify those projects that they believed would have the largest impact for positive change in their lives on campus. One of the projects that emerged as a priority was a new late-night eatery. The committee conveyed this wish to Dining Services, and, at that point, the project entered the fast track.
"We asked ourselves, 'How soon can we realistically open?'" said William Canney, director of Dining Services. "Our goal became the spring of 1997."
They met their goal, and then some, when the new McClelland Marketplace opened Feb. 3 after a breathtaking three-week construction and renovation. The new facility, featuring three restaurants and a computer cafe area, is open until 2 a.m. seven days a week.
Canney credits the success of this effort to a unique collaboration between the offices of the Vice Provost for University Life, Residential Life, Dining Services (part of Penn's Business Services division), and the Tangible Change Committee. An enormous amount of commitment and hard work from staff members and student committee members played a key role in the fast completion of the project, Canney said.
"This program has been one of the most satisfying I have participated in as Vice Provost, both because the students themselves led the project, and we were able to make changes that helped students feel better about Penn on a very short timetable," said Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, vice provost for University Life. "It is great to see these projects have such a wonderful, positive impact on the campus."
The Marketplace replaces McClelland Express, which contained one counter, offered limited selections and was open from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The new facility features three restaurants and is open weekdays from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 2 a.m.
The restaurants are Deb's Concessions, Block & Barrel Deli and Tomassito's Italian Cafe. Deb's Concessions--named for Dining Services Assistant Manager Debbie McCord--offers items such as hot dogs and sausage sandwiches, nachos, pretzels, popcorn, muffins and cookies.
Block & Barrel Deli offers freshly made deli sandwiches, salads, yogurt, fruit and microwaveable entrees and breakfast items. Canney noted that students had previously expressed a high interest in a facility that offered fresh delicatessen sandwiches.
Tomassito's Italian Cafe features pizzas--including a breakfast pizza--and strombolis. Tomassito's is also located in Chats, the University's other late-night dining spot that opened in The Class of 1920 Dining Commons in 1995.
Since its opening, McClelland Marketplace has been "jammed," Canney noted, serving some 1,000 customers a night. It offers several "cashless" payment systems, including Dining Dollar$, which are available to any member of the University community with a valid PENNcard, SFS Charge, ADM and Meal Redemption.
While the Marketplace is used primarily by students, faculty and staff are welcome and some have already come, Canney said.
Adam Sherr, Dining Services marketing and meal contract coordinator, noted it was "remarkable" that the project was completed so quickly.
"It is a testament to everyone working together with the same goal," he said. "We all came together to do something positive for our students. That's what the University's all about--doing what's best for our students."
Canney praised all members of the project who worked in tandem across departments, singling out for special note members of the Dining Services staff, including Sherr, Addie Flowers, Debbie McCord and Wayne Timm, who, he said, "volunteered on the project above and beyond the call of duty."
The Marketplace will celebrate its grand opening tonight, beginning at 8:30 p.m. The celebration will include a raffle for a new bicycle, food discounts and live entertainment provided by Penn performing arts groups. President Rodin is expected to attend, along with several other Penn dignitaries.
The grand opening will follow a town meeting on the Perelman Project that is being held by Provost Stanley Chodorow in McClelland's South Lounge at 7 p.m.
Originally published on March 4, 1997