Thomas Commons Renovation Project Overview

Commons Lobby and Lounge

Architectural rendering of the Thomas Commons north lobby and lounge. See a full gallery of Thomas Commons plans

New architectural plans for Cornell's Thomas Commons will bring sweeping changes to the college's student center, adding a majestic entrance and lobby, glass-enclosed dining addition, and marketplace dining.

Upgrades will add energy and demonstrate a high priority on engaging students. Preliminary plans were approved by the Board of Trustees in October, and ground breaking is planned for June 4, 2012. The project will be completed in phases and finished by fall 2014.

"The new entrance areas represent a staggering wow factor for our students and are dramatically different from what we have today," said Trustee Dean Riesen '79, who chairs the Thomas Commons Task Force. "When complete, the new Thomas Commons will be a warm and welcoming center of activity that entices students to enter, and once inside, to feel like they belong here."

A new façade (pictured above) to the 1966 building will add vibrancy and blend with Cornell's classic National Historic Register campus and architecture. The 3,000 square-foot addition will provide a spacious, welcoming entry with soaring ceilings, a lobby and fireplace, an updated information desk, an outdoor gathering space, and a prominent logo store representing the heritage, brand, and spirit of Cornell College.

The Commons' flat roofline will be tempered by a pitched roof on the new additions. Large areas of glass will infuse the building with natural light and break down barriers so students can see and be seen. The servery will move to the west side of the dining hall (near Armstrong Hall), doubling in size and featuring a greater variety of fresh food stations. The new plan will provide engaging views from the lobby of the dining hall, marketplace, and the valley beyond.

A 6,000 square-foot addition to the east (toward Bowman-Carter Hall) will increase dining and multi-purpose space. An elevator will add accessibility. The Orange Carpet, Cornell's popular "living room" area, will remain the building's unique hub. Two classrooms will be located in place of the Roe Howard Fitness Center, which moves to the current bookstore location.

The $12 million project will result in a striking building that meets the highest needs and goals, while leaving room for additional growth. The plans will serve future generations with a dynamic state-of-the-art building that further differentiates Cornell from other liberal arts colleges. Giving new life to the Thomas Commons will foster what has always been Cornell's strength—its community.