New Community Commons Opens to the Campus
With 360-degree views of campus and a sweeping outlook on the Front Range, the new Community Commons at the University of Denver offers a stunning centerpiece for a beautiful campus. Opening this week, it promises to transform the way the DU community interacts by reimagining the way space is used on campus.
From picturesque views, comfortable lounges to relax in, a central dining hall with countless food options and Denver’s newest green roof, the 132,000-square-foot building is designed to invigorate the traditional student experience.
Dining is a central feature of the new Community Commons. The options begin with the second-floor Rebecca Chopp Grand Central Market. The area serves as the campus dining room, offering nine different micro-restaurant concepts providing an ever-changing mix of cuisine. More than 700 people can gather inside or on the courtyard terrace that wraps around the outside of the food hall and offers mountain views.
The Rebecca Chopp Grand Central Market has a different feel from other food halls on campus. Gone are the food boards that most diners are accustomed to seeing. Instead, all menu items are available by downloading the Bite University App by Sodexo. While it is possible to purchase one or two a la carte items at a time, Sodexo has expanded its options for full meals — which consist of an entrée, three sides and a fountain drink. The traditional block meal plan for first- and second-year students continues to be an option, but new options, such as a 50-block plan, 10-block plan and a flex gold meal plan, are now offered as well.
The dining options do not end on the second floor. On the first level, rollin’ n bowlin’ provides healthy smoothies, acai bowls and toasts. Those who might require a jolt of caffeine will be happy to know that a Starbucks will open later this winter. Both locations provide employment opportunities for students.
The fourth floor of the Community Commons also offers dining options; these come with some of the best views on campus. During lunchtime, the roof offers an intimate setting for about 50 people to enjoy a buffet lunch. In the afternoon and evening, the roof provides an opportunity for social gatherings with free hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar that stays open until 10 p.m.
Beyond the views and the food, the roof and patio have plenty of room for everyone to sit and relax. Students will never be more than a few feet from a power outlet or USB port to plug in cell phones and laptops, and this is true throughout the building. What’s more, roughly 30 percent of the Commons’ green roof, in compliance with Denver’s 2017 green building ordinance, will be planted with grass and maintained by the University’s grounds crew. The goal is to study the roof’s impact and assess its effectiveness in Colorado’s arid climate.
The Community Commons aims to be the new central place for students, faculty, staff and alumni to gather and connect. For students, the building has dedicated space for many clubs and organizations. Study abroad, internationalization, academic advising, student outreach and support, International Student and Scholar Services, and veteran services all have office space on the third floor. Also on the third floor are dedicated lounges for both undergraduate and graduate students. Although the lounges occupy separate spaces, they are connected by a balcony that overlooks the Campus Green.
The first floor, meanwhile, is home to additional staff and student-staff suites and offices. The intercultural suite has dedicated space for representatives from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Cultural Center, the English Language Center, Health Promotion and a nutritionist from Sodexo. Showcasing DU’s commitment to the public good, the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship & Learning (CCESL) and the Office of Sustainability also have their suites on the first floor.
Serving as the main artery on the lower level, the Richard C. Saunders Canyon is the connecting space and entry point into the Community Commons. The space is named for Dick Saunders, a 1963 graduate of the Daniels College of Business. Saunders is the founder of Saunders Construction, the company that built the facility.
The Grand Forum, a communal space that can host large events or serve as the grand entry and social hangout for the community, is located on the east end of the first floor and adjacent to the Campus Green. Partitions on both ends of the space make it possible to increase the size of the room to accommodate more than 300 people. When the added space is not needed, the partitions can be closed to maintain three separate lounge areas, one of which includes an indoor/outdoor fireplace.
Like DU’s undergraduate and graduate students, faculty now have their first dedicated space, outside of their individual offices, to gather together. The faculty lounge benefits from views of the Campus Green and provides an intimate area around a fireplace.
The debut of the Community Commons also means the Driscoll Bridge over Evans Avenue is once again open for pedestrian traffic. Prior to construction, the bridge accommodated 4,000 crossings per day.
As the University of Denver continues to respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic, there are safety measures in place in the Community Commons to ensure social distancing, limit the size of gatherings and allow for a clean environment. The latter is enhanced by a displacement air system, long used in Scandinavia and increasingly deployed in commercial buildings in the United States. Much quieter than a conventional ventilation system, the displacement air system improves indoor air quality by slowly moving high volumes of air instead of forcing and blowing air that stirs up dust and other room contaminants.