June 14, 2021

Bringing new life, dining concepts to Purdue’s historic memorial union building

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The grand Purdue Memorial Union on Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus is undergoing a transformative renovation to the 67,000-square-foot ground floor, which will be complete later this year. The space is on schedule to open in January.

The investment in the adjoining Union Club Hotel and its subsequent renovation served as catalysts for the $47 million ground floor renovation, which began last August. Demolition work is complete, and construction activities are underway, including framing out the areas for new venues and mechanical, electrical and plumbing work.

“Through our partnership with Aramark, we have been able to bring exciting new food options to campus, and we are already seeing success with the concepts in Griffin Residence Hall North and Meredith Residence Hall South,” said Rob Wynkoop, associate vice president of auxiliary services. “When the ground floor of the Union reopens, even more new options will be readily accessible to students, faculty and staff and located near the parking garage and the Union Club Hotel for visitors."

union-groundfloor Ground floor renovations are underway at the Purdue Memorial Union. The completed project will bring new dining venues to the West Lafayette campus and community in January. (Photo provided by Administrative Operations) Download image

Formerly, the ground floor of the PMU housed nine restaurants and a pub. When complete, the renovated space will house the following 12 dining venues including four restaurants developed by Chicago’s acclaimed Cornerstone Restaurant Group and a sports bar and grill that is co-owned by Drew Brees, former Purdue quarterback:

  • Aatish – Halal Contemporary Kitchen.
  • BBQ District – Slow-cooked meats, regional sauces and savory sides.
  • Boilermaker Market @ PMU – Convenience retailing with fresh, quality foods and beverages.
  • Chef Bill Kim’s – Asian dumplings and bowls using authentic ingredients.
  • Fresh Fare – Fresh flavors with an emphasis on dairy-free and gluten-free options.
  • Latin Inspired by Chef John Manion – South American flavors and Latin fare from Brazil and Argentina.
  • Main Street Poké – Build-your-own sushi in a bowl, salad bar and boba teas.
  • Pizza & Parm Shop – Detroit-style pizza with a caramelized cheese crust and creative parm sandwiches.
  • Sol Toro – Mexican flavors with a modern flair.
  • Starbucks® – Premium specialty coffee.
  • Sushi Boss – Fresh custom sushi.
  • Walk On’s Sports Bistreaux – Scratch-made, Louisiana-inspired cuisine with a game-day flair: Burgers, wraps, salads, seafood specialties.

Indoor seating capacity will grow from approximately 700 to 900 seats, and nearly 150 additional seats will be created within two outdoor terraces, each of which feature a fire pit. The terraces will add more than 11,000 square feet of dining and collaboration space.

“The new terraces along the south side of the building will enhance the connectivity between the south lawn area and the lower level of the Union. They will also increase the vibrancy and draw of the eastern edge of campus, recently transformed through the State Street Redevelopment Project and the construction of the new gateway at State and Grant streets,” said Jay Wasson, associate vice president of Physical Facilities. “The terraces are a significant aspect of the renovation because they will improve the visibility, accessibility, seating capacity, daylighting and overall aesthetic of the Union’s ground floor.”

The ground floor will also feature four performance stages, a fireplace lounge that brings in natural light, multiple collaboration areas with an increased number of outlets and better technology, diverse furniture options, enhanced wayfinding, greater accessibility and circulation, and gender neutral restrooms.

“When it reopens, the ground floor will be a destination, not only for the campus, but for the community as well,” Wynkoop said. “It will be an inviting place to bring your family before a football game or to visit on a weekend.”

Although the ground floor will have a fresh look, care is being taken to preserve the rich history of the facility, which was originally constructed in the 1920s with several additions built in subsequent years.

“The Union has a strong tradition, both as a physical cornerstone of campus and a social centerpiece of the student experience,” said Zane Reif, director of Purdue Memorial Union. “The renovated ground floor preserves and celebrates key architectural elements of the building while creating a modernized space that enhances opportunities for students.”

During the demolition phase of this project, original exterior walls were uncovered and will remain exposed as a feature of the complete renovation. Existing iconic plaster arches and wooden windows that were original to the 1924 construction of the facility will remain in the renovated space, accentuated by the new design.

“Students have always been at the forefront of what makes PMU such an important gathering space on campus,” said Beth McCuskey, vice provost for student life. “The renovation continues the Union’s tradition as a hub of student activity and provides opportunities for generations of Boilermakers to connect and create new memories as part of their Purdue experience.”

Fundraising efforts have begun by the Purdue for Life Foundation with an overall goal of raising $5 million. Naming opportunities range from $50,000 to $2.5 million. More information on the Union ground floor renovation can be found online

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