Frequenters of Donnelly Hall were welcomed by a pleasant surprise as they arrived on campus for the 2016-17 academic year. The southeastern corridor of the 54-year-old building had been updated to match current construction standards on Marist’s campus in the form of a modern student lounge and completely renovated bathrooms.
And according to Marist Executive Vice President Geoffrey Brackett, there is much more to come, including a complete overhaul of the Donnelly Cafe over winter break.
“Originally, we wanted to complete the Donnelly Cafe construction over the summer, but we knew we could hold off on that for contingency purposes,” Brackett said. “In that building, there was some asbestos we had to remove, so it took longer to effectively and safely remove that. As a result, we haven’t done anything yet, but it is on target for a January renovation.”
Brackett said that the new cafe, lounge and bathrooms are all part of one big project to modernize the building and create a more convenient environment for students, and it was all inspired by airport lounges.
“The airport lounge has radically changed over last 10 years,” Brackett said. “It started with JetBlue and JFK making it much more comfortable, making sure you have lots of power and jacks for phones and tablets. I said ‘I want that to be like an airport lounge.’ When I was traveling I would send pictures of them, and the architect captured that feeling quite well.
“They are designed for in-between time. Often in an airport lounge, you have to have everything available to you – comfortable seating, power…”
When the cafe is complete, Brackett said the goal of the entire southeast area of Donnelly is to create a “flow” in which students, faculty and visitors alike can enjoy the close proximity of all three major components, much like in an airport lounge.
The addition of the student lounge directly across from the cafe aims to expand seating for customers, too, which has been an issue given the lack of seating space within the existing cafe.
In fact, they are so closely tied together that the cafe design will emulate that of the new lounge.
“We want to carry elements of the lounge design into the cafe,” Brackett said. “We are restricted, but we want to introduce a glass wall to the extent we can, match it to the lounge as best we can.”
As for the specifics of new features or food selections within the renovated cafe, it is not yet clear what will be added, however Brackett said that those updates are currently in the works.
“Student Affairs is looking at enhancing options in that space based on utilization,” Brackett said. “We have a smaller budget for this, so we will make use of space we have. We are going to modify and enhance the food selection.”
Brackett said the master plan for Donnelly is to move the fashion department into an expanded Steel Plant to create more student space. But for now, students can look forward to a brand new dining experience within the historic building when they return for spring semester.