Campus News

Goodbye Satellite: the underground center set to close April

The Board of Regents approved shutting down the Satellite, which has suffered significant flooding and water damage in past years. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The UH System Board of Regents approved shutting down the Student Center Satellite, which has suffered significant flooding and water damage in past years. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The era of the Student Center Satellite will come to an end next April.

The UH System Board of Regents last Thursday approved to close the Satellite on April 30, 2020 and replace it with a new dining center.

Of course, students may not be surprised by the development, considering the flooding issues and the flurry of new dining options in the last few years — including the food trucks and delivery robots. Rosie Ashley, program director for Auxiliary Services, confirmed the Satellite is being shut down for these reasons.

“Flooding has impacted the SC Satellite,” Ashley said in an email. “With this in mind, we believe the SC Satellite location will be the best site for the Auxiliary Retail Center, because the plan is to build above ground.”

A new ‘Food Hall’

The Auxiliary Retail Center will begin construction summer 2020 and will be completed by summer 2022, according to a UH System Board of Regents meeting on Nov. 14.

“The plan is to ultimately fill the Satellite in and put the new center there,” said Jim McShan, senior vice president and senior vice chancellor of administration and finance, at the meeting.

Their vision for the eventual center, which the Auxiliary Services website refers to as a “Food Hall,” is grand and expansive.

“Offering an open floor plan where freshly prepared food is made directly in front of guests,” according to the website’s retail dining vision page. “The UH Food Hall will build on this trend to bring a unique retail environment to campus.”

Other concepts for the retail center include an “action seating” area, where students can watch cooks prepare food, community tables where “students connect with their peers in large groups,” while maximizing seating space and an emphasis on sustainability through the construction and into dining.

“Purchasing decisions, building materials and packaging selections all have a sustainability cause and effect,” the website said. “The story behind all these decisions must be front and center. At the Food Hall, this story will be told in a very public way.”

Ashley said the design process is still in its early stages.

“We are still determining all of the needs for this space,” Ashley said. “We will partner with our Food Service Advisory Committee as continue forward with programming and design.”

The project has a budget of $35 million, approved by the Board of Regents.

Originally, the new retail center was planned to replace the Technology Annex, however, Ashley said that the SC Satellite was deemed a much better location by campus stakeholders.

No lack of options

More construction can be expected in that part of campus, which has seen multiple projects in the past year, including Garage 5.

“We expect that construction will affect foot traffic in the area, but it is too early to say how much of an impact it will have,” Ashley said.

The Satellite’s dining options, such as Tandoori Nite, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, will close along with it on April 30.

Students won’t go wanting for food options despite the Satellite’s closure, Ashley said. There are plans to increase the food truck availability to this part of campus, and a Dunkin’ Donuts will be in Garage 5 by May 2020.

There are also plans to bring a Starbucks into the M.D. Anderson Library, but this project has no concrete timeline, Ashley said.

While Auxiliary Services is planning to support this part of campus more heavily in the meantime, students may have to hold onto the hope of the new center.

“The Food Hall is a special experience as it puts cooks back in the stations, eliminates machine made food and pulls together all the elements of locality, socialization, technology and worldly culinary experiences that are so important to Gen Z,” according to the retail dining vision.

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