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'A spectacular building': West Union opens for students

<p>West Union will begin serving food to students Aug. 29 after its $95 million renovations finished at the end of the summer.</p>

West Union will begin serving food to students Aug. 29 after its $95 million renovations finished at the end of the summer.

The West Union will be opening its newly renovated glass doors and serving food to all next Monday, Aug. 29. 

The building is holding a soft opening this week and will began serving just lunch this Monday, wrote Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, in an email. The West Union—which contains 13 new eateries operated by nine vendors—will be fully open to students and the public Aug. 29, the first day of classes. As a part of its "First Big Week" programming, there will be a “West Union First Big Welcome” event the afternoon of Sept. 2 before the annual Heatwave concert, and Duke University Union will also be hosting a trivia night that Thursday in Devil’s Krafthouse. 

Students said that they are looking forward to finally enjoying additional food options on campus and having a central location to eat and socialize.

“I’ve been really excited just walking by it and talking with incoming family members about West Union and what it has to offer, so when I actually get a chance to go eat inside of it and see everything, I think it will be really nice,” sophomore Analese Bridges said.

In the last few weeks of the summer, workers have been putting final touches on the $95 million construction project, such as installing doorknobs and glasswork. With the exception of a few minor tweaks that will wrap up as students begin to use the West Union, Moneta said that the construction on the building is complete.

“It’s a spectacular building, and I think students are going to be blown away by it,” he noted.

Senior Paola Vallejos worked for the Conference and Event Services office this summer and was able to see the progress in the final months of the West Union's transformation, which was open only to summer camp participants. She noted that the building's design combines both modern and classic elements.

"I had gone in the West Union for Blue Devil Days, and it was really musty and dark," Vallejos said. "It's the complete opposite now—it's bright and very inviting. I think everyone's going to like it."

Moneta added that the role of the West Union in student life will ultimately depend on the students.

“I’d like to think that it will contribute to community,” Moneta said. “If we’ve done our jobs right, we’ll see all of this contribute to a sense of belongingness and community.”

The West Union will offer a larger, more centralized dining location that had been lacking on West Campus for years, many students noted.

“I think that it will foster an atmosphere that’s similar to Marketplace but for upperclassmen, serving as a main hub of a dining hall for all upperclassmen on West Campus,” Bridges said.

Junior Megan Conroy added that she is looking forward to grabbing dinner with friends once the West Union opens.

“I’m hoping that they have some cheaper options, and it’s not just restaurant-style food but more home-style food,” she said.

Although students are excited for the opening of West Union, upperclassmen have some mixed emotions as most have never experienced the West Union during their time at Duke.

"Sophomore year, I lived in Kilgo and my room overlooked the construction, and my room would shake sometimes," Vallejos said. "I'm just happy we at least have it for a year. We never had it to begin with so we kind of have a low expectation."

Moneta said that he recognizes the disruption to student life that the construction on the West Union created in the last few years, noting that food options in the Bryan Center and Penn Pavilion were meant to alleviate those difficulties.

“I certainly think students rose to the occasion,” Moneta said. “I would be remiss not to acknowledge the inconvenience. Hopefully, everyone will see how much it was worth it.”

The Chronicle communicated with Moneta via email and phone. Abigail Xie contributed reporting. 


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