Massive renovation proposal awaits approval

Alessandro Roco

Over the past several years, Dining Services and the Facilities Management Office have developed over a dozen plans that would facilitate the renovation of Dougherty Hall.

According to Rev. John Stack, O.S.A, vice president of student life, ideas have been suggested as to how Dougherty could be redone ever since the 1980s.

A major hurdle in planning a renovation to Dougherty Hall is locating a dining facility to temporarily supplant it.

The primary concern faced by Dining Services is the need to keep Dougherty open and functional to cater to the needs of students and the campus community year round.

“People don’t truly appreciate how much the facilities at Dougherty are used,” Timothy Dietzler, director of Dining Services said. “Besides serving students in the dining hall, the Italian Kitchen and Corner Grille, Dougherty Hall also prepares food for all other dining facilities on campus, including catering.

“It is challenging to come up with an effective plan for renovating Dougherty Hall, as we can’t shut it down for an extended period of time without locating a temporary dining facility,” he added.

One idea involved a series of renovations to Dougherty over three summers, allowing for the update of the building’s antiquated facilities.

One proposed solution, Project Mole, would place a 25,000 square foot kitchen and serving area underground, allowing both Connelly Center and Dougherty to remain functional during renovations.

At an estimated $34 million, the project would involve a complete excavation of the underground area between Connelly and Dougherty.

Due to the construction underground, the plaza between Connelly and Dougherty would be closed off for the duration of the project.

Given the extensive details of the project, it would extend over approximately 3-4 years, with the underground construction lasting approximately 15-24 months, Dietzler said.

Though talks about the project have begun to increase, Frederick Sieber, executive director for budgeting and auxiliary services, said that the project is by no means “a done deal.”

“The project has increasingly been in discussion,” Sieber said. “Whether it’s Project Mole or another option, something will eventually be done. [But] we haven’t yet engaged in any contact with architects or engineers, and we still have to engage with planners to help look at several different scenarios.”

While construction would inconvenience students, who would have to walk around the perimeter of Connelly and Dougherty in order to get around campus, Dietzler said, “It would be for the greater good of the school. When completed, the plaza area would look and feel very much the same as it does today.”

One major concern expressed by Robert Morro, executive director for facilities management, over doing construction underneath the Oreo is that the central power, gas and steam lines lie underneath it.

“This definitely presents a challenge,” Morro said. “But the trade-off is that we and many different organizations gain much desired space.”

The Details

The $34 million project would create a new state-of-the-art underground student center, but more importantly, would redo the outdated Dougherty facilities.

The project would connect Connelly and Dougherty through an underground Dining Services facility that would exist directly beneath the Oreo.

The seating room in the Pit would still exist as seating during the busy hours of the new dining hall, as well as the addition of smaller conference rooms for student organizations or other small events.

The Corner Grille and IK would be eliminated, creating more room for student organizations and other school-sponsored events.

A new food concept would replace the Belle Air Terrace, and the variety of foods offered in the new serving area would supplant the IK/CG.

This new dining center would allow Dining Services to centralize its resources instead of splitting them between Connelly and Dougherty, as it currently does.

While Dietzler said there would be no elimination of positions, he said that bridging Connelly and Dougherty “would allow us to do our job more effectively and efficiently. We will be able to extend our hours of operation to better serve the campus community, including a 24/7 operation.”

The student center would also allow for vendors and retail space in this new underground area.

Additionally, Dietzler has been entertaining the idea of creating a full 24/7 convenience store, as well as a breakfast diner that would be open for extended hours throughout the year to provide students with post-midnight eats.

Creating one extensive studentdining center would coincide with Dietzler’s vision of a “destination dining” concept.

A common term among those in the food industry, “destination dining” is the belief that students will travel extra distances across campus to dine at a facility offering a “total dining experience,” featuring interactive food stations, a wide variety of food concepts and ethnic cuisines served in a trendy and upscale facility with ambiance and stylish decor.

Another major benefit of the project that Dietzler points out is this new expanded and dynamic student center that would provide a place for students who want to just hang out and socialize.

The Buzz

Though University president Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A. has not yet seen the detailed plan of Project Mole, the project is in a funding queue waiting review and approval.

But several University officials including Dietzler are excited about what the proposal has to offer.

“Project Mole could significantly and dramatically change the way Dining Services functions on campus, as it will centralize all our resources and create a new way for students to experience the campus,” Dietzler said.

Morro was also very optimistic about the project, calling it “a fantastic idea.”

“Dougherty is really in need of renovation,” Morro said. “The project is definitely a possibility, but we have to balance it with all the other needs of the University.”

Sieber felt confident that some form of renovation needs to and will eventually take place. However, he also cautions people to not think of the project as “imminent.”

“It hasn’t moved up in the list of priorities and as of now, we’re seeing to the building of the new athletic facility, then the parking garage and the law and nursing schools,” he said. “So, people shouldn’t expect the project to start that soon, as we still have to weigh out all options.”

Kathleen Byrnes, associate vice president for student life, is optimistic about the proposal, calling it “a very intriguing idea.”

“It would definitely resolve our space needs and help in our expansion of the University without taking up any green space,” said Byrnes. “It definitely has great potential.”

The one major concern Byrnes did have about Project Mole was its cost and the effect that closing Dougherty, even for a short while, may have on the University.

“I definitely think it’s possible and that in one way or another, it’s in the realm of feasibility,” she said. “I think, though, that it might still be a few years down the road for such a big project. And besides the $34 million, an equally big obstacle is the closing of Dougherty.”

Stack said he felt the 52-year-old building is in dire need of a makeover.

But he also said that this makeover needs to be representative of the changes that the University has made over the past several years.

“We don’t want to find ourselves with a brand new version of a building created in 1954,” he said. “[The Office of] Student Life has to come up with a plan that addresses the new needs and visions of the University. It’s a whole different era now, and I feel we’re still trying to play catch-up from years ago.”

We’ve been able to just patch things up in Dougherty so far, but to do it right would require significant behind-the-scenes construction. It wouldn’t be a cosmetic makeover, so to speak,” he added.

Though Stack feels that something needs to be done to remedy the situation facing Dougherty, he did express doubts about the high cost and timeliness of the project.

The History

Every day, massive amounts of students flood into Dougherty for the famous wraps or chicken parmesan at the IK, the Buffalo Bill or Southwest wraps at the Corner Grille, or that special made-to-order omelet from Kathy.

But students may not necessarily know about the history that lies within the 52-year-old building.

When Dougherty was erected in 1954, in approximately the same era Bartley, Sheehan and Sullivan halls were created, the atmosphere on campus was quite a different one.

As a regional college filled with a high percentage of commuting males (the University did not become co-educational until later), Dougherty was all the University’s students in the post-World War II era needed to accomplish organizational duties.

In 1970, the enrollment at the University was a modest 4,500 students, according to Stack. But what made the atmosphere truly different from that of today is that of those 4,500 students, over half were enrolled as commuter students.

Compare this to the class of 2009, whose commuter enrollment is less than 50 out of approximately 1,600 students, the smallest commuter enrollment in the University’s history; the difference between the University feel in 1970 and 2006 is glaring.

With the exception of Bartley’s café, open for lunch, students in 1954 looked only to the newly created Dougherty to fill their stomachs, as the Day Hop and Pie Shop (now the IK/CG) were the only places students could buy food.

Connelly would only open 26 years later in 1980.

As students in 1954 filed into Dougherty, they did not see the Center for Multicultural Affairs office as they entered. Rather, they saw the University bookstore before entering the Day Hop and Pie Shop. The East and West lounges remained the same. However, the second floor of Dougherty presented quite a different picture.

The Office of Student Development, the Student Government Association office and the press room for The Villanovan are still in their original positions.

However, the second floor of Dougherty also housed the Office of Security and a facility used by the football team (now the Office of the Dean of Students) and the Office of the Chaplain (now the Office of the New Student Orientation).