OPP Details Renovations for Ryley and Commons

The Office of the Physical Plant recently hosted a presentation on Commons renovation plans, informing those in attendance of the changes that will take place between December 2007 and March 2009. Present were the architect who formulated the design, Peter Kleiner; representatives from the architectural firm, Schwartz and Silver; and Lenny Condenzio, principal at Ricca Newmark Design, the company hired to do food service design. Kleiner and Condenzio explained that the overall goal of the new dining hall is to use the space better and provide a better eating environment. According to them, Commons will no longer be a cafeteria, but a “total dining experience.” In terms of large-scale modification, Condenzio elaborated on the new Ryley Room. First, the entrance leading to the Ryley Room by the side door, currently situated near Lower Right, will be removed. The architects studied the entrances and found that the Ryley Room entrance to the building is often congested during lunchtime. The Ryley Room, with the new renovations, will be accessed from separate outside doors. The interior of the Ryley Room will be altered to provide more space. The seats and tables in the Ryley Room will be portable and will be stored in a side room for large activity functions. Additionally, a small room will be located in the basement, near the Ryley Room to serve as another meeting room similar to the Rose and Blue Rooms upstairs. Condenzio said that with the new servery location, the food quality would improve. Food will be prepared in front of students to increase interactions with the cooks. The hope is to forge relationships between students and to offer the commons workers a greater sense of pride in the food they are making. Kleiner then showed a three-dimensional animated tour of the future facility. The digital video showed that the significant changes are in the entrance and serving areas. Individuals will no longer enter into Commons and choose a dining hall based on a personal preference. Instead, everyone will move straight ahead to a larger common serving area. This serving area is modeled after many college eateries where each different type of food has their own station. Rather than waiting in line and passing all of the options, people can directly access their desired food and avoid a line. He also mentioned notable differences with the renovated Commons. The entire building will be wheelchair accessible. There will be wireless Internet access throughout the building and a bathroom facility will be installed upstairs. Kleiner concluded the design presentation by introducing the blueprints of the building. The architects stressed that the exterior structure of the building will remain intact. The upstairs meeting rooms and Ropes Salon will remain as they are. This information-heavy session was followed by a question and answer session. Those in attendance raised concerns about sound level, backpack storage, crowds and other details. One point of discussion regarded current sustainability efforts with respect to the new Commons facility. The design team assured that the building will be sustainable as a LEED-certified project, meaning that it has the approval of the U.S. Green Building Council. Electric burners rather than gas burners will be used, and Commons will become less of an energy hog. While becoming a LEED-certified building will lengthen the building process, the campus is dedicated to having an environmentally friendly building. In response to some criticism voiced by students in attendance, David Chase, Director of Stewardship, said that the renovation would be completed as soon as possible. Acknowledging that “it is in everyone’s best interest to finish the project as quickly as possible,” Mr. Chase said that the school was going to do its best with the expectation that naturally, some obstacles may temporarily halt the construction.