“Yale on York,” the University’s new event space at 150 York St., opened on Thursday, as a temporary venue for Yale traditions like the First-Year Holiday Dinner while Commons is renovated.

“This space can host dances, sit-down dinners, award ceremonies, performances, really whatever you can think of,” said Rafi Taherian, associate vice president of Yale Hospitality. “We aimed to preserve the events that are normally held in Commons during the three-year renovation of the Schwartzman Center.”

Commons closed in August, with the University set to begin transforming it into the Schwarzman Center next month. After eight months of planning and construction, the new space on York Street is now open for business, with two main reception areas: an upper reception area, which looks out onto York Street, that hold 200 guests and a lower level that can accommodate either a 650-person seated meal or an 800-person standing reception. Yale may have to spread traditional events like the First-Year Holiday Dinner across multiple evenings, Taherian said. Students from half the colleges will come one night, he said, and students in the other half the next.

At the open house Thursday evening, attendees previewed the space and sampled the venue’s catering options.

The University put great care into selecting the decor of the space, according to Natalie Turcio, the executive and special projects manager at Yale Hospitality. In a statement, Yale Hospitality said its goal while decorating the space was “to uphold a sense of connectivity to Yale.”

Turcio said that the furniture is reclaimed from other functions in the University. For example, she explained, the bars were once library card catalogue holders.

Turcio, who helped select the finishes, said she aimed to fill what would be an open, large room with beautiful pieces of students’ artworks. She collected works from undergraduates and students in the School of Art to display on a six-month rotation.

“I am excited that Yale wanted to display student works in the new space,” said Olivia Thomas ’20, whose art is currently on display. “I hope that the works will allow Yale students to feel more connected to the space.”

The decorations were one thing that stood out to Henry Ziemer ’21, who was eyeing the space as a potential venue for a Yale Model United Nations event. The event, which usually hosts several hundred people, is customarily held in Commons.

“The space is really cool and well designed,” Ziemer said. “Even if it’s a little far from the center of campus, the food is incredible and I’m very happy Yale created such a nice space in an attempt to replace Commons.”

This bodes well for students like Jonathan Weiss ’20, who were disappointed to hear that Commons would be closing down for renovations. Over the next three years, officials plan to transform the space into a state-of-the-art student center — with performance rooms, dining options and a bar — for both undergraduates and graduate and professional students.

“After I heard it was closing for three years, everyone I knew was upset,” Weiss explained. “Commons was the quintessential ‘Yale space,’ but I am really hoping ‘Yale on York’ can live up to the space it’s temporarily replacing.”

Although it is only 7,300 square feet — compared to the 87,000 square feet Schwartzman Center — “Yale on York” should be able to accommodate most of the Yale events previously held at Commons, according to the Yale Hospitality statement.

Planning and construction of the “Yale on York” project began in February 2017. The work was completed in eight months and the space is now fully operational.

Skakel McCooey |