Watch out “Hotel Allison,” there’s a new kid on the block — Willard Residential College is open again and it’s brand-new. Boasting a large lounge, a fitness room, a spacious study area and, more importantly, the return of Fran’s to its original home, this magnificent building has caught the attention of students across campus.
Despite the improvements, Willard has been criticized for its new atmosphere. While many appreciate the new facilities, others feel the layout of the dorm is not conducive to socializing.
“Willard is way better [than Hinman]. The rooms are way better, but it’s kind of clinical,” said Vishal Giridhar, a McCormick sophomore and Resident Assistant in Willard. “There’s only one lounge per floor, which becomes an issue when you want to see people.”
Fran’s, the popular cafe housed inside Willard, is also different. The menu is shorter – fan favorites, such as the chicken strips, have been axed. New items, such as the Fran’s burger, have been added. Some, like Giridhar, were disappointed by the changes.
“I think some parts of the new Fran’s menu are better. The new Fran’s burger is amazing,” Giridhar said. “But they give fewer Tater Tots here than in old Fran’s. . .there are definitely things they took away from old Fran’s that were really good, and that gets annoying.”
Other people were excited by the new menu.
“I actually really like it,” said Alex Hamilton, a Bienen freshman who frequents Fran’s. He says the new menu items are more homey, like the chicken and waffles.
The atmosphere in Fran’s has changed as well. Previously, Willard residents and others who lived on campus could come to Fran’s to hang out and study. Now, some say that that’s not really possible in the new cafe.
“It’s just not really the same,” said Danny Cooper, a Medill junior who lived in Willard before it closed for renovations. “It was a good late-night thing because it was all cozy and relaxed, and now it’s kind of intense.”
Instead of long, cafeteria-style tables, Fran’s has a long counter and a high table where students can plug their laptops in, and cushioned chairs and sofas where people can hang out. The new layout is more casual, but it seems to isolate those who want to study from those who want to just hang out with friends. Others, though, aren’t bothered by the layout.
“I love the atmosphere in [Fran’s] — it’s more casual,” he said. “The first time I came in here, it felt like a place where you can unwind.”