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Work Begins On New Admissions Center, Dining Facility at Conn.'s Choate Rosemary Hall

Thu May 23, 2024 - Northeast Edition
CT Insider


The expanded servery will offer more space and flexibility to offer regional, international and cultural cuisine as well as a wide variety of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and allergy aware offerings. Facility improvements will also address student wellness concerns, as the improved circulation will allow students to be served quickly and efficiently, providing more time for healthy and enjoyable dining amid busy schedules.
Rendering courtesy of Choate
The expanded servery will offer more space and flexibility to offer regional, international and cultural cuisine as well as a wide variety of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and allergy aware offerings. Facility improvements will also address student wellness concerns, as the improved circulation will allow students to be served quickly and efficiently, providing more time for healthy and enjoyable dining amid busy schedules.

A year after approval by the Wallingford, Conn., planning and zoning commission, construction has begun on Choate Rosemary Hall's new admissions center and cafeteria expansion.

The grounds for a new expanded admissions center at the corner of North Main and Elm streets are currently being cleared and earth is being moved on the central campus of the private, college-preparatory boarding school to make room for a 14,000-sq. ft., two-story building with an underground 70-space parking garage.

Completion is expected sometime next year, CT Insider reported May 17.

The project was subject to a months-long approval process that concluded in May 2023.

One of the major sources of contention was the addition of the underground parking facility, which some members of the Wallingford commission believed would bring too much traffic to the residential area surrounding the school.

The new garage will replace an existing 60-space lot outside the current admissions building and be covered with grass and new landscaping.

"From an environmental standpoint, it decreases the runoff from oil and other things that surface parking lots are known for. And then the new lot, of course, will have a green roof to it. It will be lawn on top," said Patrick Durbin, Choate's chief financial officer.

According to school officials, the current admissions office is outdated and unable to fulfill the growing needs of its staff as interest in attending Choate continues to increase each year.

While the prep school is not looking to expand enrollment beyond its current 860 students, many more prospective students have been coming to the campus from across the globe, and Durbin and his colleagues want a modern facility that accommodates both those arrivals and the needs of its staff.

Alison Cady, Choate's chief communications officer, noted that even though the school is committed to its enrollment size, "interest in our school has expanded greatly. And that is wonderful news for us and by design because we are dependent upon attracting students nationally and internationally."

She added, however, that "improvement of our facilities is [primarily] to support the existing program supporting 860 students during the academic year."

New Dining Facility to Meet All Dietary Needs

Choate's new Carr Hall admissions center has a focus of environmentalism at the core of its design and is being built with the goal of decreasing the school's overall carbon footprint, according to CT Insider.

It is named after Michael Carr, who served as chair of Choate's board of trustees from 2011 to 2019 and helped modernize the prep school and oversee significant additions to the campus during his tenure.

The first floor will be dedicated to a welcoming reception area and a versatile gathering space that can be configured for meetings, informational sessions, presentations and receptions. Above it, on the second floor, will be more modern office spaces, which Choate staff hope will increase the overall efficiency of their operations.

Simultaneously, the central dining facility in the Hill House building also is being renovated to add a new food service area so staff can accommodate the growing dietary needs of the students that are not being met with their current cafeteria.

An upgrade to the dining area was badly needed as Hill House was originally built in 1910 and created restrictions for the kitchen staff in recent years.

The facility's new construction will add a 3,600-sq.-ft. addition to the building, and while students are able to currently dine in the hall, it is slated to be closed during the upcoming fall and winter terms to prepare it for the work, Choate officials said.

Until the new cafeteria is finished, students will be temporarily relocated to the vacant student activity center to dine before moving back into Hill House at the end of next winter.

"We have a situation where we have students living away from home and with different allergy needs, cultural considerations and dining preferences," Durbin explained. "Expanding that footprint a little bit allows us to offer all of those options, but also in a fairly efficient way because we move a lot of people through the dining hall in a short period of time in the middle of the day when they are between classes."

The new Choate admissions center and dining hall projects were both designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, a global firm based in New York, which the school has used for several projects in the past, including its Kohler Environmental Center.

Cady noted that Choate was already considering other projects to continue expanding the school and providing new services for its students, but she was unable to offer further details to CT Insider.

"Everything's moving along smoothly, and we're really excited about the opportunities that these new spaces will provide," she told the online Connecticut news network. "In support of all the visitors that come to the town of Wallingford to visit Choate, we really think that these will be improvements. As you may know, we support many community events on campus and a dining hall being used day to day by our students is really important."




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