Auditorium Gets Second Act as Place for Students to Dine, Study and Recharge

Students visit the Cumnock Marketplace Image by Ed Brennen
The newly renovated Cumnock Marketplace is designed to be a "North Campus living room" for residential and commuter students.

By Ed Brennen

On the stage where Pearl Jam and Run DMC once performed for hundreds of screaming fans, students can now order up Korean chicken baguette sandwiches and kale Caesar salads.

With this fall’s opening of the new Cumnock Marketplace on North Campus, the former Cumnock Hall auditorium has been transformed into a bright and comfortable hangout space where students can grab a bite to eat, study and recharge between classes.

“It’s beautiful. I like the open feel,” junior math major Katherinne Castro said while doing homework in a corner booth with classmate Amariah Condon on the facility’s opening morning.

Castro, who commutes to campus from Hudson, N.H., said she will “absolutely” be spending time between classes at the Cumnock Marketplace, which is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (except Fridays, when it closes at 5 p.m.).

A student waits for her sandwich at the deli Image by Ed Brennen
Senior business major Oda Shackelford, a forward on the UML women's basketball team, orders a deli sandwich at Cumnock Marketplace.

The auditorium’s $5 million renovation includes a market and deli (built on the raised stage), a dining area with seating for 256 people, eye-catching herringbone wood flooring and a UPrint station for students. There are also new men’s and women’s restrooms, as well as a mother’s room/quiet area, located outside the dining room’s main doors off the first-floor lobby.

The dining area features clusters of tables (some with built-in power outlets), cushioned bench seating along the walls and two areas with couches and coffee tables. There’s also an assortment of designer chairs, including black cylinders that resemble train smokestacks.

“Everything looks really cool and modern,” sophomore computer science major Ron Pestov said as he swiveled back and forth in one of the cylindrical chairs. “I can see myself coming here between classes instead of going back to my dorm” at Fox Hall.

Students sit in designer chairs at the marketplace Image by Ed Brennen
Sophomore computer science majors Ron Pestov, left, and Eric Ramos try out the new designer furniture at Cumnock Marketplace.

Grab-and-go beverages and snacks, including coffee, pastries and prepackaged sandwiches, are available throughout the day at the market, which accepts River Hawk Dollars and cash. (The market even features a section of international snacks such as Japanese Pocky, South Korean shrimp crackers and Costa Rican plantain chips.)

Deli sandwiches, salads and grain bowls are also available each day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (5 p.m. on Fridays). The sandwich menu includes staples like tuna salad wraps and turkey and ham croissants, as well as more adventurous offerings like B.L.T. banh mi or Greek white bean baguettes.

The salad and grain bowl offerings, meanwhile, will rotate on a three-week cycle, so “every week we’ll offer a fresh set of ingredients and flavors,” says Rachel DiGregorio, marketing manager for University Dining.

The opening of Cumnock Marketplace has resulted in some changes at the Southwick Food Court, which is now open weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Students can now use their meal plan to buy lunch at Southwick, which has replaced the sandwich station with a noodle bar and expanded its “Southwick of the Border” menu to include tacos.

Students study in the dining area Image by Ed Brennen
The marketplace's dining area offers students a variety of seating options.

Cumnock Marketplace is part of a larger North Campus renovation project that includes a $50 million revamp of Perry Hall and the creation of a landscaped courtyard that will horseshoe Cumnock Hall.

Behind the scenes, a new food waste recycling system called Grind2Energy was included in the Cumnock Marketplace project. The system converts food scraps into a slurry that is stored in a 3,600-gallon holding tank, which is housed in a new two-story loading dock off the back of the building. The liquid waste will be pumped into a truck and hauled to an anaerobic digestion facility, where captured methane is converted into renewable energy and the remaining nutrient-rich organic material can be used as fertilizer.

Converting the underutilized Cumnock auditorium into a North Campus “living room” – similar to the second floor of the recently renovated McGauvran Center on South Campus – improves campus life for both residential and commuter students, according to Larry Siegel, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and university events.

Students study in a corner booth Image by Ed Brennen
Junior math majors Amariah Condon, left, and Katherinne Castro enjoy snacks while doing homework in a corner booth.

“We knew we had inadequate dining on North Campus, and we knew there weren’t enough places for students to hang out between classes. This helps address both those issues,” says Siegel, who notes that the auditorium was only being used about 10 percent of the time for student functions. The auditorium has a rich history, hosting a visit from then-Sen. John F. Kennedy when it opened in 1956 as well as various concerts over the years.

As she worked on her laptop and nibbled on Peanut M&Ms with Castro in their corner booth, Condon gave the new Cumnock Marketplace high marks on its opening day.

“It’s really exciting to have this open,” said Condon, a junior math major from Saugus who lives on campus. “Sometimes I’d go to the McGauvran Center on South Campus to do homework because it’s so nice over there, so it’s great to have this on North now.”