The expanded seating area for Jazzman’s Café in the Glenn G. Bartle Library Tower is slated to open around spring break.
Two years ago when Peter Napolitano, director of Auxiliary Services at Binghamton University, and Paul Kerns, district manager for Sodexo, met for drinks at Jazzman’s Café in the Bartle Library Tower, they noticed a stark underutilization of the space adjacent to the popular coffee kiosk. Construction on the glassed-in patio, known as the Library Deck Addition Project, began a year ago on the outdoor courtyard outside of Jazzman’s.
“We were literally sitting at Jazzman’s Café and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to put a deck out there, like a wooden deck?’” Napolitano recalls.
The hypothetical project evolved into a reconstructive undertaking on behalf of campus Auxiliary Services, Physical Facilities and Sodexo.
Students like Kelly Ryan, a junior double-majoring in psychology and English, were surprised by the restructuring of the courtyard space.
“I didn’t know about it,” Ryan said. “Much like construction all over campus, no one really informed us it was happening until we saw it.”
Physical Facilities spokeswoman Karen Fennie said when it comes to on-campus construction, the University seeks input from a variety of sources, including student feedback.
Robert Griffin, marketing director at Sodexo, said Sodexo frequently receives student comment cards requesting more space. He added that Sodexo looks for student feedback by distributing surveys during fall and spring semesters.
Comment boxes are located in residential dining halls and surveys are sent out via B-mail every semester.
“We’ve had comments for a long time that the space needed more seating, so it wasn’t like it was new information,” Griffin said. “This was always in the back of our mind when we were going through the planning process that room for eating had been an issue for years.”
The new Jazzman’s look intends to imitate a Starbucks, Panera-esque experience. Napolitano said the inspiration came mainly from BU students.
“We don’t just haphazardly go about executing projects,” Napolitano said. “We use a lot of data, such as customer satisfaction surveys each academic semester. We use all that data, market analysis, to try and emulate off-campus markets that appeal to our students.”
Still, there are some limitations to what the University can afford.
“We knew that with a Starbucks or a Dunkin’ Donuts would come higher prices [for food/beverage products], and we didn’t think campus would support that kind of thing,” Napolitano said. “We don’t have a lot of royalty fees with Jazzman’s.”
Every five years, each SUNY institution designates a capital plan that calculates expenses and funding for construction projects across their campuses. This capital plan is designed to meet a list of strategic initiatives to improve the quality of the campus experience and to increase the volume of opportunities offered by the University, according to Fennie.
Fennie said this project, as well as other major construction projects on campus, typically fall under the capital plan budget, which currently runs through 2013.
This plan grants subcommittees of the Strategic Planning Council a $550 million budget to divide and execute construction to meet certain campus initiatives. Napolitano would not comment on exact figures for the Jazzman’s project but said that the costs were covered by the Council’s funding.
Napolitano said Auxiliary Services, along with other departments within the University, like Sodexo, set funds aside over the years to invest in future projects that could benefit the campus, like the rebuilding of the University Union, the renovation of the Chenango Room and the addition of Einstein Bros. Bagels.
“We, the state, decide where this money is going to be spent,” Napolitano said. “It is not Sodexo’s money at all — this is University money. The institution is fortunate to have a partner like Sodexo that understands our culture, student program needs and is a customer-driven, student-centered operation. They are all student-centered, they have to be.”
The Library Deck Addition Project is using natural light, green materials and less electricity than non-environmentally friendly resources.
Jimmy Alvarez, manager at Jazzman’s Café in the Bartle Library Tower, said he and his staff are excited about the expansion.
“It will give you more room, not only for students but professors and graduate students,” Alvarez said. “They use this [Jazzman’s] as a park to come do their homework, and at the same token will bring us more business — coffee is a social network.”
Napolitano and students alike feel that this is a valuable addition to campus.
“We should and must continue to grow and challenge ourselves to be better,” Napolitano said. “We believe this project is highly desired and greatly appreciated as proven by the amount of customers that are served each day.”
Sandra Harper, a junior majoring in human development, said she thinks the addition will improve the environment in the Bartle Library Tower.
“I think it’s nice; I also know they would need to fix the appearance of the courtyard and make it more visibly friendly,” Harper said.
Kristen Briggs, a junior majoring in psychology, is not happy with the choice, however.
“I’d prefer Dunkin’ Donuts’ products over what Jazzman’s offers,” Briggs said. “What we are served should be up to the students. We are the primary consumers.”