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AU Delivers Summer 2023 Transformations in Leonard Hall, the Tunnel, and Mary Graydon Center

Student Thriving Project kicks into high gear with Tunnel, Mary Graydon Center, and Leonard Hall improvements designed to enable students’ success.

Bronté Burleigh-Jones (AU CFO), Edwin Santos (President AUSG), and Marcus Neil (President RHA) with Clawed at the Tunnel ribbon-cutting

During this past summer, AU underwent some exciting changes in the Tunnel, the Mary Graydon Center, and Leonard Hall, as part of the Student Thriving Project . These changes are the beginning of long-term efforts to support the AU community with improved spaces on campus that enable students to be successful during their time at AU. To celebrate these early milestones, the university had a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and block party, and co-hosted a barbeque on the quad with the Residence Hall Association to reopen the Tunnel and Leonard Hall, both of which underwent significant renovations.

RHA-AU Kitchen Taste of Home BBQ on the Quad following the ribbon cutting
RHA-AU Kitchen Taste of Home BBQ on the Quad following the ribbon cutting

New and Renovated Dining and Retail Venues

The Tunnel is now home to a new Qdoba eatery and Campus Store, as well as a fully renovated Starbucks and Subway. The Mary Graydon Center now features a new Panera which replaced a long-time Einstein Bros. Bagels venue and a smaller eatery in place of Paper Lantern. Additionally, after a campus-wide vote last spring in which 1,700 community members participated, the Eagle’s Nest and East Campus Convenience Store have been renamed Eagles Express and East Campus Market, respectively.

The newly renovated Campus Store and Subway in the Tunnel

Inside the newly renovated Campus Store

The new Panera in the Mary Graydon Center

New and renovated tunnel venues

Starbucks remodeling under way this summer

The shuttle passing Eagle Express

The newly renovated Starbucks in the Tunnel

Leonard Hall Renovation

Leonard Hall, with 198 rooms and beds for approximately 400 students, received a complete overhaul with significant interior and exterior work that touched nearly every surface in the building, including brand-new pod-style bathrooms and floor kitchens. The work was done in time for students to move in this past week, with demolition starting the day of move-out, and work being completed up until the day of move-in.

Students move into newly renovated Leonard Hall

Leonard Hall lobby before renovation

Leonard Hall lobby under construction this summer

Projects Result of Efforts by Many Cross-Divisional Teams at AU

These projects are the result of efforts by multiple teams across the Office of Finance and Treasurer Division. The Division is led by AU double alumna, Bronté Burleigh-Jones (Kogod/BS 1991, Kogod/MBA 1993), who serves as the university’s CFO, Vice President of Finance, and Treasurer.

“These projects are part of a series of efforts by cross-divisional teams at AU that will deliver significantly improved student-focused spaces, from eateries to study lounges, to recreation and athletic spaces and residence hall rooms, that will ensure our Eagles thrive during and after their time at AU,” said Burleigh-Jones, who was a resident of Leonard Hall during her first year at AU.

Burleigh-Jones also remembers when a McDonald’s and a Hair Salon were part of the Tunnel. In later decades, other independent restaurant and retail operators were added, such as the UPS Store, which has been on campus since 1997.

McDonald's on AU campus in 2009

Chevy Chase bank in 2015. This building now houses Eagle Express.

Paper Lantern has now been replaced by Panera

Stacks, a Mary Graydon venue in 2001

Auntie Anne's in Mary Graydon Center in 2001

The pandemic led to the closure of remaining independent operators in the Tunnel, with the exception of the UPS Store. As the university planned for a return to in-person operations, the Campus Auxiliaries team, which includes the dining program, updated plans developed with significant community input in 2019 and 2020 for improved campus eateries. Throughout fall 2022 and spring 2023, the dining program opened a series of new branded venues in MGC, and laid the groundwork for this summer’s venue renovations and construction. Later this fall, the AU community can expect additional community-focused enhancements such as special events for meal plan holders and more Farm-to-Table offerings from the Airlie Berkshire Farm, which is part of the Airlie property the university was gifted in 2016 at the beginning of the Change Can’t Wait campaign.

“The Campus Auxiliaries team worked hard to develop our improvement plans with cross campus stakeholder input,” said Assistant Vice President of Campus Auxiliaries Michael Scher.

Scher, a triple alumnus (SOC/BA 2008, WCL/JD 2013, Kogod/MS 2019), is excited about what’s to come this year and beyond for the university’s dining program. “Having studied and thrived here at AU, I am so proud of our teams’ hard work over the past year to deliver these improvements. Plus, at every stage of work on these projects, we built and strengthened partnerships with stakeholders across campus so that these new venues strengthen our sense of community,” he said.

These changes are all part of the ongoing Student Thriving Project, a $103 million investment supported by the Change Can’t Wait campaign and university resources, that aims to create and update campus spaces that are fundamental to student success. As the largest investment in student thriving in AU history, the goal of the project is based on the recognition that students need places to gather and engage and access services that support them while they are pursuing their goals.  

Note: Additional photos were added on August 30, 2023