August 12, 2010

$7-Million Renovation to Leutner Commons to “Wow” CWRU Students

An artistic rendering of Leutner Commons

When Case Western Reserve University students arrive on campus this fall and go for meals in the newly renovated Leutner Commmons in the North Residential Village, they will find more than food made to order.

Since October 2009, Leutner Commons has undergone a $7-million transformation with a building design by the Cleveland architects Burt-Hill and San Francisco-based interior designers EDG. Now, the facility has banks of windows on the western and southern exposures that reveal flexible new spaces dedicated to dining, studying, academic and social gatherings and more. The interior is infused with the ambience of earth and sun colors and materials in the environmentally friendly building.

The official dedication is at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 18. The dedication comes before the official opening for students on Saturday, Aug. 21 at 4:30 p.m.

The renovations increased the building size by 10,500 square feet with the west and south expansions and its occupancy to 1,206 people, an increase of 25 percent. The area of the building is now 43,187 square feet.

The renovation project is part of the University Master Plan to improve campus facilities and student life. With limited physical space to build a new hall, the decision was made to renovate the existing structure.

“Leutner Hall is primarily used by our first-year students, and the dining experience is a way for students to feel a part of the campus community,” Vice President of Campus Services Richard Jamieson said. “It is critical that they have a positive dining experience, which is key to building student life. The preexisting facility did not meet this need.”

An integral part of Burt-Hill’s design was incorporating ideas from student focus groups.

“When students walk through the new entrance to Leutner Commons, the reaction they will have is ‘WOW’,” said Jamieson.

Features of the renovated Leutner Hall are:

  • Flexible seating configurations from intimate seating at small tables or booths to large group gatherings of 16 or more.
  • A new study area with single or group seating for 76 students off the main dining area.
  • New front entrance and atrium equipped with two electronic boards for campus and food service information.
  • Wireless connections throughout the premise.
  • Installation of new first-floor restrooms.
  • A social lounge with a two-story fireplace.
  • Renovated Spot, a popular student hangout, with capabilities to expand the space with the addition of the sliding glass doors.
  • New lecture or seminar meeting capabilities in the dining and lower-level social areas.
  • Environmentally friendly materials and insulation or reuse of existing materials created a sustainable building.

According to Lillian Zamecnik, a fourth-year marketing major from Evans, Ga., it now meets students’ expectations. She participated in several focus groups and planning meetings and toured the facility.

"I am very excited to see how the newly renovated Leutner Hall will impact student life here at CWRU. The space is so open, light and designed with us in mind,” Zamecnik said. “I think Leutner Hall could become the place to be for students on the North side, whether you're eating or not!"

“The administration, developers and architects seemed to really understand what students' needs were and did a very good job in addressing them,” said Divya Aggarwal, Undergraduate Student Government vice president of student life.

The design also took into consideration changes in what students want to eat. What is different now is a center-stage grand island, the anchor of the food area where CWRU food provider, Bon Appétit, has capabilities to prepare meals to order for diets, which can range from traditional to ethnic and vegetarian.

Other dining features are:

  • The Taqueria for authentic food from different regions of Mexico featuring items like Conchinita Pibil (pork braised with achiote and citrus), albondigas (Mexican Meatballs), moles, caldos (soups), and a variety of taco preparations both meat-lovers and vegetarian.
  • Two sauté stations with a total of 20 gas burners that can feature risottos, pastas, stir-fries, mussels cooked to order, Asian noodle bowls, cutlets and parmesan preparations, customized soup preparations, and other innovative dishes that Bon Appetit chefs will create daily.
  • A 15 foot one-of-a-kind custom ice-less ‘cold top’ that will change the way salad and deli stations are presented.
  • A heated ‘Eurocase’ displays home-style comfort foods, simply prepared vegetables, carved meats, slow smoked barbeque items, and other regional and ethnic specialties.

Bon Appétit serves 2,600 meals at Leutner between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. The improved design increases flow and speed of service.

“Pleasing students seven days a week can be a challenge,” said James O’Brien, Bon Appétit’s resident district manager. “We want to offer them variety and build in a level of flexibility to execute a number of different concepts from the same platform.”

He added that a multi-purpose concept enables Bon Appetit to run such items as panini, build your own burritos, smoothies, fresh squeezed juices, crepes and pizza among other items.

Expanded kitchen facilities support the Bon Appétit continued emphasis on authentic, made-from-scratch cooking, with a renewed focus on foods for vegetarians, vegans and diners with special dietary needs.

The kitchen renovations add space and capabilities for Bon Appétit’s catering and campus-wide baking services that supply food and pastries for special campus events, other campus cafes and the nearby Cleveland Botanical Garden.

Off the main eating area is a quiet place for students to study in a glass-enclosed area with outdoor views and natural lighting. A few steps or an elevator ride down is a lounge with a two-story freestanding fireplace for social gatherings or access to the popular Spot for a night of music and fun with friends.

“Sliding glass doors throughout the building offer a flexibility to reconfigure spaces on the two levels for use by small or large groups of as many as 300 people, said John Wheeler, vice president of community relations.

Krill Company oversaw construction that began in earnest shortly after students left campus in mid-May. The exterior walls with the new windows were built over existing walls to expand the existing structure designed by the firm of Outcault, Guenther, Rode, Toduchi and Bonbrak and named in honor of Western Reserve University President Winfred George Leutner (1939-49).

Later the old exterior came down and was replaced by interior glass walls to allow for more natural lighting to infuse the facility.

“We tried to maintain the integrity of the original structure,” said Nicholas Christie, CWRU project manager for the Leutner renovations.

Leutner Commons, officially dedicated in 1965, was constructed as part of a dormitory project on the north side of campus.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, August 12, 2010 09:10 AM | News Topics: Campus Life, Students

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