The Hatch reopens as a ‘freeform’ space for students


The Hatch Cafe will have its formal opening on Monday, April 3, 2017. (Amanda Levenson/Amherst Wire)

AMHERST — The Hatch has been resurrected after being unused for years, once again becoming a home for students rather than storage.

The space, which has been neglected since 2014, is now decorated with tables, chairs, couches, a café and cubicles equipped with whiteboards. The area is meant to be multi-purpose: Students can mingle with friends, study, eat, hold extracurricular club meetings, and more. The project, which cost over $150,000, was led by the Student Government Association (SGA), and subsidized by both Auxiliary Services and Facilities & Campus Services.

“I want to see students doing what students do,” said Anthony Vitale, president of SGA. “I hope it helps to make this building really the center of student life and the center of the campus, and what it’s intended to be.”

Vice President Lily Wallace and SGA President Vitale explained how the space has something old, something new, something borrowed, and is a compliment to something blue — the Blue Wall dining area in the Campus Center.

The lights, floor, and more were kept the same from The Hatch’s other life. Look behind the cubicles and one can see they even kept the old kitchen areas. The tables and couches are new. As for borrowed, the chairs are from different spots on campus where they were no longer needed. The cubicle walls were recycled from an office in Massachusetts.

According to Vitale, The Hatch has had various purposes over the years. It was a bowling alley in the 1950s and 60s, a bar in the 70s and 80s, and has most recently served as an eatery until the opening of modern Blue Wall. Since then, The Hatch has been an unoccupied space, until Vitale said he recognized the opportunity to bring it back to life.

Vitale noticed a problematic lack of freeform space, or space that isn’t designated one specific purpose, on campus during the start of his SGA career. Since he ran for his first term as SGA president, renovating The Hatch has been a vision he was determined to make a reality.

The new space basically doubles the amount of usable student space in the campus center and student union complex, Vitale said. Students can utilize it as an alternative to the library or recently opened Old Chapel.

Vitale said that the most positive feedback has come from upperclassmen, but students of different ages have also expressed how pleased they are with the reopening.

Alice Bronstein, 22, is a senior who has just started to scope out The Hatch. She never saw the previous setup because she transferred to the university after it closed. She said she likes it because it gives the feel of lounging in the Integrative Learning Center or on the ninth floor of the library.

To her, the more study areas, the better. The Hatch is a nice addition to her list because it’s open, spacious, quiet and in a great location.

“It’s definitely less intimidating than the library,” she said. “You can find a place to go rather than the library where people don’t necessarily know where to go.”

Wallace, vice president of SGA, is a senior who experienced The Hatch before it entered retirement.

She said she remembers the days when it used to merely be an extension of Blue Wall. After all these years, Wallace still mourns the loss of UMac & Cheese and remembers the interesting odor the basement food retail location gave off. Now, she looks forward to watching it grow into this new role that is not strictly about dining.

“I hope that it becomes what I’ve seen it used for [since it opened]: a really great place for students to come and meet about whatever they’re passionate about,” Wallace said.

The space and all its features aren’t meant to compete with Blue Wall because it serves a much broader purpose than just a place to eat. The president and vice president did note, however, that they hoped the Auxiliary Services’ café would eventually be replaced by a student business. The enterprise only took over the location to support the SGA. There is a building code requirement that a food retailer must be present, so Auxiliary Services temporarily stepped in to help.

The café is full service, accepting dining dollars, UMass debit, cards and cash.

Vitale said the reopening of The Hatch is just the tip of the iceberg. Plans are in the works to completely renovate the student union, which is why they chose not to make drastic changes to The Hatch.

“It wasn’t worth it for us to completely renovate The Hatch…this was a perfect middle ground between ripping it apart and creating a million-dollar space, and creating a usable space,” Vitale said.

While the space has been open to students since the end of spring break, a grand opening and ribbon cutting will be held at noon Monday, April 3.

Email Amanda at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @Amanda_Levenson.

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