Shorter lines and more open seats at mealtime are soon to become common sites at Northern Arizona University.

Only four years after a major renovation of the University Union, NAU is responding to a growing student population with a dining services project that will connect a new building to the Union and add 13,000 square feet of space.

Temporary fences are up and work has already begun on the $5 million project, which is being funded through a partnership of NAU and Sodexo. Completion is scheduled for August 2013.

“The expansion and additional retail area will benefit students by providing additional seating in the Hot Spot, making it easier to find a seat during peak periods,” said Jane Kuhn, associate vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. “A new Starbucks will have a larger service counter, which will improve customer service.”

In addition to the Starbucks, which will move from its current location to a larger, more centrally located space, a new convenience store selling pizza will be added. Second-floor dining for the Hot Spot is also part of the project.

Construction over winter break involves utility relocation and work on exterior walls. A portion of the pedway near the project will be temporarily relocated. Ultimately, the bike path in that area will be rerouted and enlarged to allow emergency vehicle access between the Union and Gillenwater Hall.

Agnes Drogi, NAU director of Planning, Design and Construction, said that deliveries will take place along the transit spine throughout the project, but she does not anticipate that they will cause “any significant delays or changes in stops.”

Drogi said the Hot Spot will remain open during the spring semester and will close after graduation in May.

Beginning at spring break, interior work at the Hot Spot will take place to install an elevator and connection points to the new building. At that time, access to the Hot Spot will be moved to a location opposite Pizza Hut.

NAU Foundation, through NAREH LLC, has contracted with local general contractor Kinney Construction Services for design and construction. NAU Facility Services is providing project management.