With more Columbus State University students moving into downtown housing, the university is expanding its food service program into what was the Rankin Deli at the corner of 10th Street and First Avenue, according to Tom Helton, vice president for business and finance.
Helton said the university has added 92 beds to the existing 350, and the influx is creating a crowding problem at the school's present food service provider, The Den, a combination restaurant and convenience store on Broadway operated by Aramark Services.
"When the owner of the Rankin went out of business and that property became available, we thought this might be an opportunity," Helton said. "We're excited about it."
Helton said because there is so much back-and-forth traffic between CSU's main campus and downtown, it's impossible to say how many students are downtown. He estimated that, between the art, music and theater schools, there are about 600 majors downtown, but he added that the school's shuttle service transports about 10,000 students a week between the two campuses.
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The school's current enrollment is about 8,400.
The renovation/reformation project on the Rankin is in its earliest stage. Aeramark, which will lease the facility from the university's Property Foundation and operate it, is working on a design and will share with the foundation the cost -- which Helton estimated will be about half a million dollars.
When the facility opens, which Helton said should be in October or November, it will function like the current facility. Students will be able to purchase meals with their Cougar Card, which functions as a pre-paid meal ticket, or they can pay cash. The general public will also be welcome to eat there, as is the case at The Den, Helton said.
When the new facility opens, the convenience store/restaurant operation at The Den will move in and the old place, also owned by the foundation, will be available for lease.
Helton said workers are cleaning the place and disassembling the old bar and getting it ready for the construction phase.
"They're not going to alter it significantly," he said. "We'll keep the basic look, because we like the historic look of it."
Helton said when Property Foundation property is used solely for university purposes, it is usually exempt from property taxes. But when it is used for a commercial enterprise, such as the new food services facility, the university will pay taxes on that portion of the property.