On a recent tour of the University of Colorado Boulder campus, Regent Sue Sharkey said she was shocked to see the "disgusting" condition of Darley Dining Center, a dining hall that campus officials are proposing be torn down and rebuilt.

Sharkey, R-Castle Rock, and Regent Glen Gallegos, R-Grand Junction, gave initial approval to the project last week, which is expected to cost $48.9 million dollars. The plan goes before the full Board of Regents later this month.

"Literally I was really appalled at what I saw," Sharkey said. "This is something that should've been done a long time ago. I wouldn't eat a meal out of that building. It's terrible."

"It's a project that is long overdue, I will say that. I was really disappointed that it really hasn't been more of a priority sooner. It's pretty bad."

Campus officials are working to turn the 45-year-old Darley Dining Center into a new "Village Center," which will serve as the heart of Williams Village at 30th Street and Baseline Road.

The proposed Village Center would be similar to CU's Center for Community, which in addition to dining facilities also houses various student groups, community space and campus departments.

'It was time for this place to get renovated'

Kambiz Khalili, CU housing and dining services director, said everyone agrees that it's time for Darley to get an upgrade. Surveys taken every year have identified students' feelings about the building — it's old.

"People might use different adjectives, but however you look at it, it was time for this place to get renovated and I'm glad that we're getting some support," he said.

Khalili said based on housing and dining statistics, the number of students eating at the dining hall has stayed relatively consistent, even after the opening of the modern Center for Community, which features a smorgasbord of food choices.

He said the typical life of a dining facility is between 25 to 30 years. Khalili acknowledged that officials had been trying to extend the life of Darley, by adding features like a burrito station and by bringing over top chefs from other areas of campus.

While the building infrastructure needs renovating, Khalili said food quality and safety is not an issue, based on the positive scores given recently by the Boulder County Health Department.

The campus prioritized which dining facilities to renovate 10 years ago, Khalili said, and Darley was the last one on the list. He said there are many factors in determining which facilities to update, including age, condition, available funds and other construction projects on campus.

Amir Abouzalam, who lived in Darley Towers last year as a freshman, said he avoided eating in the Darley dining facility "at all costs."

"I would be on campus a lot and everything in the (Center for Community) is so nice, everything looks modern," he said. "Sewall (Dining Center) and Libby (Dining Center) seemed updated. And Darley is just kind of like. . .it was Darley. You never wanted to go to Darley."

Darley demolition could start this summer

Much of the building is outdated and the layout isn't very functional, officials said. The outdated kitchen is in the basement, and food must be transported by elevator to the dining area on the second floor.

That elevator is the only one in the building, which has caused some issues around accessibility for some students.

Abouzalam said his roommate, who was on crutches for some of last year, had a few awkward encounters waiting for the elevator, only for it to arrive full of food and with no room for him.

He added that another awkward part about the facility's layout is the lack of a bathroom on the same floor as the dining area.

Senior Juedon Kebede, a recently elected CU Student Government tri-executive, said he lived in Stearns East Hall near Darley Dining Center as a freshman.

Even then, students went elsewhere. He said he was glad to hear about the regents' initial support of the project.

"You had students who would walk or bike all the way to the (Center for Community) or Sewall just to eat," he said. "As far as the building itself, it's not a building that you want to go in there and study in."

If the project is approved later this month, demolition of Darley Dining Center could begin this summer with the new Village Center set to open in spring of 2017.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or kutas@dailycamera.com