Culinary Renovation Enters Design Phase

If the way to the heart is through the stomach, more people may soon be in love with Clark College.
Clark officials plan to include greater food variety, a more visual layout and easier access as part of a remodel to the culinary program in Gaiser Hall.
Construction is scheduled to begin by next January and should conclude in summer 2016— in time for the new program to begin that fall.

According to Dean of Career and Technical Programs Genevieve Howard, the renovation is primarily intended to update Clark’s culinary program to better match industry standards—though the remodel is also supposed to give students better food options on campus.

Howard said the renovation will use new technologies to provide a better classroom experience for culinary students. “Currently culinary doesn’t have access to a smart classroom in their area,” according to Howard. That will change with the renovation. “One of the things that I’m excited about and embedding in the design is a lot of technology—placing cameras around the facility so that the instructor can move to different areas,” Howard said. The cameras will stream to classroom TVs, making it easier for students to view demonstrations without crowding together.

The physical layout will also change. In addition to an entrance from within Gaiser Hall, current plans include a dedicated entrance outside the hall near Gaiser’s northern entrance, Howard said.

Once inside the facility, customers will be able to purchase either bakery or cook-to-order items. “What we’re looking at now is a baking retail space. It’s in the same food court area, but it will have a more coffee-shop feel to it,” Howard said. The non-bakery items would be served at kiosks. “We are aiming for three kiosks, which are cook to order stations that the college would run, and another one that a potential vendor could go into.”

Howard said a culinary task force, two years ago, determined through surveys that students, faculty and staff want a greater variety of options—especially healthy ones. “People wanted different choices—whether it’s vegetarian, vegan, gluten free. We want to be more mindful of healthy, local and sustainable kind of options,” she said. The kiosks will provide the variety to satisfy that demand.

According to Clark Construction Project Manager Mayra Werner, college officials are still determining the exact design of the remodeled facility. Werner said they are working with the architect firm Yost Grub Hall and are currently finishing “schematic design,” and moving on to “design development.” According to Werner, “Schematic design is just getting everybody’s ideas on paper and saying, ‘Hey do you think we can move forward with the actual design of this concept?’”

Werner said the design development phase will last until the end of July, and they will then file construction documents with the city in September as part of the permitting requirements. “Then we have to go through bidding with contractors, which will take two or three months. So construction possibly starts in December or January,” she said.

At an open-dialogue event with the public on April 9, Clark President Bob Knight announced the bakery will close after Fall Quarter 2015 because of the construction.

Although Clark closed the cafeteria in winter 2014 in anticipation of construction, officials didn’t close the bakery because they hoped to keep it open during construction, Howard said.

Initial renovation assessments estimated a cost of about $8.5 million, said Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Williamson. “We’ve applied for what is called a certificate of participation, which is essentially a line of credit from the State Treasurer,” Williamson said. We’ve asked for over $8 million in COP funds. We don’t know if that will be approved until the State Legislature approves a budget, but we have every reason to believe it will be approved.”

However, Williamson said they don’t intend to spend all $8.5 million requested. First, Clark can choose exactly how much of the requested amount they need, and only needs to pay back what they draw from it. That’s beneficial because revised estimates put the cost significantly lower. “Working with a consultant and the architects, we’ve been able to get the costs down to closer to $7.4 million,” Williamson said.

Additionally, rather than use the state loan, Williamson said they hope to fund the entire project using private donations. The Clark College Foundation, a nonprofit organization created as Clark’s fundraising partner, intends to fundraise $7.4 million from private donors, said Rhonda Morin, the foundation’s director of communication.

Although they haven’t received any checks yet, Morin said they have begun the process of contacting donors and identifying parts of the renovation, like the kitchen, that could be named after large donors. They are also finishing a metric that will guide them in determining the number of donors needed.

According to Clark’s Director of Business Services Sabra Sand, they hope the entire amount will be funded through the foundation, but any remaining costs will be covered by the state loan, and then paid back most likely through Clark’s “fund balance”—money left over at the end of the year.

According to Sand, even during a budget crisis, like Clark is currently facing, Clark always has leftover funds at the end of the year—mainly due to staff turnover. “You not only have staff turnover, but you may have staff on unpaid leave,” Sand said. “We experience that every year no matter what the budget looks like.”

Despite the price tag of the renovation, Howard said in her opinion the cost is worth it. “We live between Portland and Seattle, so there are huge restaurant industries right in our backyard. We have Mount Hood with ski resorts and the coast. There are so many opportunities for employment.”

By: Steven Cooper

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