This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Bombshelter to close this winter for 2011 replacement

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The popular campus burger joint known as the Bombshelter will see its bunker-thick concrete walls put to the ultimate test this winter: demolition.

Rendering of the new South Campus Student Center by Capital Programs.
Rendering of the new South Campus Student Center by Capital Programs.
A replacement South Campus Student Center (SCSC), planned for completion in March or April of 2011, will expand upon the Bombshelter's current location in the Court of Sciences, in front of the California Nanosystems Institute. The SCSC will provide four food stations and outdoor seating just like the Bombshelter, while adding indoor seating, an academic supplies store and, possibly, a coffee cart. It will also offer longer hours and green features like a walkable, landscaped roof, according to the Associated Students of UCLA (ASUCLA) and Capital Programs, which oversees major campus construction.

The new Student Center will be able to serve more people than the old one, while the addition of indoor seating and the rooftop terrace will create a more welcoming gathering place, said Cindy Bolton, ASUCLA's food service director.

"This new center will create a central spot for students and faculty in the South Campus," Bolton said. "The existing Bombshelter was built approximately 40 years ago, but it is currently very outdated, and we have limited capacity in what food we can produce and how many customers we can serve.

"Additionally, the South Campus lacks any cohesive study and social space, and the population in this area is expanding with the recent addition of several new buildings at the southern end of the Court of Sciences," Bolton added. "This project will inject new life into the Court of Sciences."

The Bombshelter will close at the start of construction, currently scheduled for December. ASUCLA is developing plans to provide some form of South Campus food service during the anticipated year-and-a-half between the Bombshelter's closure and SCSC's opening. The new site will be about three times as big as the old one, making room for more efficient kitchens able to serve 2,600 daily meals, compared to 1,200-1,400 now, according to Bolton and a report to the UC Regents calling the current structure "obsolete."

Originally named the Court of Sciences Food Facility, the Bombshelter picked up its nickname, according to long-tenured staff and faculty, when students in the late '60s noted that the structure’s thick concrete walls reminded them of backyard bomb shelters they'd seen during the Cold War. The facility was little more than a vending facility, recalled Jeffrey Averill, the campus architect within Capital Program's Design and Construction department. "It's not really geared toward quality food production," Averill said. "We can't do the food we want to do. So the idea is to make the food better."

The $16.5 million project, funded from ASUCLA reserves and Student Programs, Activities and Resource Complex fees, will create two spaces for as-yet-unannounced vendors, and two spaces for ASUCLA. Bolton anticipates that ASUCLA will offer "an Asian concept, and what we are calling a bistro menu that will include gourmet pizzas, fresh soups and entre salads, a grill for gourmet sandwiches and signature burgers, and breakfast."

Bombshelter rendering sectionReactions from diners at the Bombshelter to news of the expanded offerings were mixed.

"That's great," said pharmacology post-doctoral researcher Anne Zaiss, who had brought a bag lunch to meet with friends at the Bombshelter’s outdoor tables. "I'd like to see some new food options. And the building is very old. It's not cozy, like Kerckhoff. Kerckhoff has a really nice vibe. But I enjoy eating outdoors here."

Ricardo Miranondes, a painter with Facilities Management who was lunching with two of his colleagues, praised the current building. "It's pretty small, but it has everything we need," he said. "And I prefer Spanish food, but the food here is pretty good."

Alfonso Cardenas, a computer science professor, noted that he wasn't even at the Bombshelter to eat, but instead came just to meet a friend. "This is a great meeting place," he said. Indoor seating might be nice, but just occasionally: "We might miss the sun, which is why we're here instead of the office."

Campus planners expect the rooftop terrace to be popular, since the idea of more green space was requested by South Campus Bruins in surveys. The roof will also be used for things like botany classes, said Rich Ohara, senior grounds superintendent with Facilities Management, who worked with Capital Programs to design the landscaping.

"This is the campus's first roof garden," Ohara said. "Plants will be native – chaparral, scrub, coastal sage scrub – and once the garden matures, it will be self-sustaining. We won't even need to water it."

Though the green roof will be the focal point of the building, it will be just one of many environmentally friendly features, Averill said.

"This is truly a green building, with the landscape coming up and over it," he said. "It's a green roof with native, drought-tolerant plants, and the dining room below is a whole series of sliding glass panels to open up the walls when the weather's nice. We're also re-using the same furniture, and taking out then re-using the existing brick, and installing energy-efficient mechanical components and low-water-use plumbing."

Tour the future: Take a look at the UCLA Urban Simulation Team's 3D rendering of the proposed South Campus Student Center:

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