By Jonathan Meilaender
The “Forward, Always Forward” comprehensive fundraising campaign that produced a new library will next make its presence felt with a markedly redesigned dining space. The cafeteria is set for a major expansion and renovation, slated for completion by the end of Summer 2021, according to Mike Hustava, senior director of Marketing and Communications, and David Hollenbaugh, vice president of Institutional Advancement.
Hustava and Hollenbaugh provided a joint statement explaining that the renovations will officially fall under the “Student Life and Hospitality Hub Project.”
The project is focused on the renovation and expansion of the current dining space and will also add new meeting and gathering spaces, they wrote. There will be some new construction, but the majority of this project will focus on renovations and enhancements, which include significant upgrades to the kitchen equipment, dining areas, mechanical systems, and HVAC, which is heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
The cafeteria is need of an update, they wrote, because it hasn’t been renovated in a long time.
“Through our engineering study, we became aware of upgrades to our mechanical systems that would benefit the college for the long-term future and would also correspond with the construction of this project,” Hustava and Hollenbaugh wrote.
Kitchen equipment and mechanisms were particularly in need of improvement.
Conceptual drawings show an additional, high-ceilinged dining space on the window side of the basilica that faces the monastery. This new structure will be connected to the current dining hall. However, the new building, though connected, is not part of the current cafeteria. Instead, it’s a second cafeteria, or “hospitality space,” that is intended for use by the seminary and for events, conferences and guests, Hollenbaugh and Hustava explained.
"Through our engineering study, we became aware of upgrades to our mechanical systems that would benefit the college for the long-term future and would also correspond with the construction of this project." - Mike Hustava and David Hollenbaugh
“With the many guests who come to campus all throughout the year, this space will serve many different groups in the spirit of hospitality, which, of course, is one of the Benedictine hallmarks,” they wrote.
The number of visitors isn’t small. In fact, according to a study by the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh, Saint Vincent hosts over 294,000 visitors a year, Hustava and Hollenbaugh wrote.
The extra space will be especially helpful when the Steelers hold training camp.
“The Steelers will utilize this space, as they have used our cafeteria and dining areas since they began holding their training camp at Saint Vincent in 1966,” they wrote. “The construction and renovation will allow for more flexibility for other guests and groups, even while training camp is being held.”
The renovations will decrease congestion, not just by funneling guests and events into the new space, but also by expanding seating in the existing cafeteria, they wrote.
The timetable for renovations will consist of two phases: Phase I will start this April and proceed until the end of the summer, while Phase II will occupy the same time slot next year. Though building in April means construction before the end of the semester, Hustava and Hollenbaugh are hopeful that any disruption would be minimal.
“The architects and construction manager are working diligently to minimize the impact of the project on daily life,” they wrote.
"The architects and construction manager are working diligently to minimize the impact of the project on daily life." - Mike Hustava and David Hollenbaugh
While it’s being funded under the “Forward, Always Forward” campaign, various donors, including the state of Pennsylvania, have funded this building specifically, Hustava and Hollenbaugh wrote.
One student, junior accounting major Ian Boland, is hopeful this renovation will bring substantial improvements, particularly through more convenient seating arrangements.
“I wish there were some walls, some smaller rooms,” he said.
That way, Boland explained, students could enjoy more privacy if they’re in a smaller group or want to sit down to work.
“The tables are too large,” he said. “If you want to sit down with your friends, you have to take a much bigger table than you need and practically shout to be heard.”
Boland said he also thinks it would be good to connect the overflow dining rooms to the main dining area.