Nationally branded food concept funds go to Callahan Hall renovations


Tori Lentz

Rather than adding a nationally branded restaurant, the funds will go towards fixing the Callahan Hall’s roof and the Callahan Bistro.

Tori Lentz, News Editor

After the idea of a nationally-branded food concept coming to the Student Union was hotly debated last spring in a town hall forum, the NKU administration has elected to use the $700,000-800,000 set aside for a new roof over Callahan Hall and a complete renovation of the Callahan Bistro.

Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple said that results from a survey conducted among students, faculty and staff last year did not play a role in the decision. Survey participants were asked to rank a list of nine possible franchises, including Chick-fil-A, as concepts they would like to see in the Student Union. Concerns about Chick-fil-A’s values arose among faculty and students, but according to Dean Waple, a lack of time for a total renovation rather than the controversy decided the fate of a national franchise in the Student Union.

“When we started looking deep into it, it wasn’t a matter of who,” Waple said. “To build a franchise and do all the renovations, we’d have to pick a spot to renovate and they’d need three to four months to renovate. And the timeline with everything that happens in the  [Student] Union, we couldn’t find three to four months where we could take a piece off.”

Waple said that the renovation in the Student Union would have also caused traffic issues in a space that is already very crowded throughout the day. Additionally, he said that all of the current food concepts in the Student Union have been very successful.

“The $700,000-800,000 that was going to go towards a food concept is much better spent long-term in Callahan Hall for many reasons,” Waple said. “Will it come up again? It may because food is always changing.”

University Housing Director Arnie Slaughter said the rationale behind the renovation of Callahan Hall is twofold.

“It is a facility that definitely needs an upgrade,” Slaughter said. “I’m sure many students have eaten there and it’s a nice dining facility, but it can definitely use some enhancements in terms of making it more warm, in terms of making it a more social area. The second part is we’re also factoring in Northern Terrace bringing in an additional 200 residents, so we’re looking at creative ways to expand.”

Residence hall occupancy is nearly at capacity–buildings were 95 percent full following the fall semester of the 2013-2014 school year and 96 percent full following the fall semester in 2014-2015.

The projects at Callahan Hall are in the preliminary stages of planning, but Slaughter said that a new roof and the renovation of the Callahan Bistro could begin as early as this spring. The roof project would likely occur simultaneously following the end of the spring semester.

“We’re looking to do a similar [plan] that we did with the Village Cafe [in Norse Commons], whether it’s this summer or next summer, but closing at spring break and then creating an alternate plan for residents in the Callahan Hall residents and Northern Terrace residents,” Slaughter said.

The closing of the dining hall this spring or next spring would give contractors five weeks in addition to the summer to complete the renovation.

“That’ll give us a little bit more flexibility in terms of identifying any issues that may arise or just making sure that we can meet that target deadline or before, whether it’s this fall if it’s closed or next fall, whichever summer,” Slaughter said.

Upgrades to furniture, technology, lighting, expanded hours, new jobs, a My Pantry concept similar to one in Norse Commons and a larger entry way are all possibilities, according to Slaughter and Waple. The renovation will be completed by GBBN Architects, the same company that renovated Norse Commons last summer.

Slaughter said the 468 Callahan Hall and 188 Northern Terrace residents could be inconvenienced by the renovation because they would have to go to the Student Union or Norse Commons to use meal swipes during the five weeks following spring break. Additional shuttle service would be provided for those residents. Slaughter said last year’s plan when Norse Commons  was renovated will be used as a prototype for the Callahan Hall renovation.

“It’s our goal to work collaboratively with many different partners to minimize that inconvenience as much as possible; coming up with a plan to make sure that during that time frame when the Bistro is closed we actually have a concrete system and plan,” Slaughter said.

He said many Callahan Hall and Northern Terrace residents are already familiar with using the TANK shuttle to travel to the Village Cafe in Norse Commons for weekend meals. The Callahan Bistro is closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Slaughter said the administration will solicit student feedback on the project.

“One thing that we definitely will continue to do is solicit student feedback, so working with SGA, working with ACR; we have a student-staff advisory board from University Housing that consists of resident assistants and peer mentors,” Slaughter said. “We are also doing focus groups for students who aren’t in those areas.”

Junior social work major Shasta Carly said that although she doesn’t often eat in the Callahan Bistro, its closing could be a problem for some students.

“I think it would probably be an inconvenience for most people, but for me personally, I eat out a lot,” Carly said.

Freshman international studies major Austin Mayfield said he doesn’t foresee the renovation being an issue.

“After spring break, I don’t think it would be as bad because it’d be warm enough and we could deal with going outside,” Mayfield said. “Its a long walk after you take the bus, but boo-hoo, I’d probably just deal with it, it wouldn’t be that big of a hassle.”