By Nick Jacques, News Correspondent
Food vendors Sweet Tomatoes Neapolitan Pizza, Kigo Kitchen, UBurger and Chick-fil-A are in negotiations with the university to install locations in the Curry Student Center this summer, Dr. Laura Wankel, Northeastern’s vice president of student affairs announced last night. These additions to the Curry Student Center could push out some current vendors, including Wendy’s and D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches.
Wankel unveiled the renovation plans for Curry Student Center and the Marino Center at last night’s Student Government Association (SGA) meeting.
The Pizza Hut-Taco Bell Express already in the center will remain because of student requests. Wankel said the new vendor selection was based on student surveys.
Sweet Tomatoes Neapolitan pizza is a local chain with two locations in Newton one in Needham, and three on Cape Cod. Wankel described it as serving “high quality pizza and hot sandwiches.”
Wankel said Kigo Kitchen is a Seattle-based company with create-your-own Asian-style cuisine. According to Kigo’s website, Northeastern will be its first location.
UBurger is a local “fresh fast food” chain with three locations in Boston.
Chick-fil-A is a national fast food chicken franchise based in Georgia. There are only two locations in Massachusetts currently, and neither is in Boston.
The plan also includes a new mezzanine, which will be suspended over the current dining area in the existing food court, with a walkway to provide access to it. The mezzanine will provide 150 additional seats for dining, Wankel said. The goal is to create an “airy” feel in the new space.
“We want to make it as free and open as it can possibly be,” she said.
One of the goals of the project is to turn the food court into an “urban market,” she said, and a new metallic and high-tech appearance would help create this image.
“We’re very proud to be an urban university,” she said.
SGA President Michael Sabo said he was very pleased with the proposal.
“I think the Curry Center renovations will go a long way in making the space more appealing to students and show more school spirit,” Sabo said.
Wankel also announced plans to renovate the Marino Center, which will be expanded into the old Nutrition One store on the first floor of the building. Wankel said the main goal of the Marino Center renovation is to allow for “more places for group fitness to occur.”
High demands for group fitness space became an issue this semester when Campus Recreation closed registration for all classes.
A Feb. 9 article in The News mentioned a Jan. 24 email from the university that said Campus Recreation had “a record amount of participants and a limited amount of studio space,” and could not accept any more students in group fitness activities.
The plan will create space for a spinning center unofficially dubbed “Husky Hub Spin City.” It will also serve other purposes like kettlebell classes and boot camp workouts.
“There will be all kinds of lights and funky things going on,” she said. “It should be something that really attracts attention.”
Wankel said the renovations are set to take place over the summer and should be completed by this September.
The plans, however, are not without controversy. The proposed Chick-fil-A is likely to be a contentious issue since the company has donated almost $2 million to “anti-gay” interest groups. According to equalitymatter.org, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) advocacy site, the largest sum of these donations was $994,199 to the Marriage & Legacy Family Fund.
“For every dollar you spend at Chick-fil-A, so many cents are going to go to one of these organizations,” said senator Taylor Cotter, who is the Senate Elections Committee chair and a senior journalism major.
Wankel said Chick-fil-A has a First Amendment right to support these groups and are not guilty of any illegal or discriminatory activity.
“Organizations really do have the prerogative to support whoever they want,” Wankel said. “Chick-fil-A has been very outspoken in not absorbing that as their agenda.”
Senator Devon Branin, the special interest senator for NU Pride, the LGBT rights student group, said there will likely be protests at Northeastern if plans to include Chic-fil-A progress.
In a January 2011 press release, Chick-fil-A president and chief executive Dan Cathy wrote that the company has “no agenda against anyone.”