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UNT to have first stand-alone dining hall by 2020

The University of North Texas will add a 36,200-square-foot dining facility in January 2020 to replace Kerr Hall. 

James Maguire, vice chancellor for facilities planning and construction, told the UNT Board of Regents during their regular meeting Thursday the plan is for 700 people to be able to eat at the hall at once. There will be a retail dining concept inside, too. 

Construction of the building at the northwest corner of Maple Street and Avenue A should start in August, and the hall is planned to open in January 2020, said Elizabeth With, vice president for student affairs. 

The project started as an expansion for Kerr Hall, but officials decided to made more sense to just build a new dining hall. 

"There's not a lot of space over there, and because of the type of expansion and the number of seats we needed, it would have cost us more to renovate than it was for us to build new," she said. 

Neal Smatresk, president of the university, said he wants the new building to have the feel of a trendy, family-style restaurant. 

"The new dining hall will be built to modern standards, more along the lines of what a giant restaurant might look like," Smatresk said. "It'll have a new, edgy design."

Students are helping with the design process and showed administrators what they liked and didn't, With said. 

The new hall will have more food areas and stations for students to get their food, plus larger kitchen space than at Kerr. Preliminary plans show the building at two stories with some outdoor seating options, With said. 

Maguire also updated regents on the residence hall that's under construction across the street from the proposed dining hall. 

The housing project broke ground earlier this year. The $49 million complex was initially scheduled to open in fall 2018 but is now expected to be completed in spring 2019, Maguire said. 

This structure will also be home to the school's Tour Center, something that's common at other large universities and is a first for UNT. More details of the center were discussed Thursday. It will be 21,000 square feet with large classroom and conference space, a large presentation room and a mock living unit. 

The Board of Regents will continue its quarterly meeting at the UNT Union on Friday morning.

FEATURED PHOTO: A rendering of the new residence hall, which sits on the southwest corner of Maple St. and Avenue A. Courtesy/University of North Texas

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.