It has been almost a year and half since Conrad Grebel University College broke ground on the “Fill the Table” construction project. This ambitious fundraising campaign raised $4.2 million to expand and renovate the College’s kitchen and dining space to accommodate Grebel’s entire community.
Renovation has now started on transforming the old kitchen into a private meeting room and a pantry for residents. The new kitchen was finished just in time for students to move into the residence on September 6.
When Kate Bradley, a 2nd year resident, saw the new kitchen, she said it “looks like a servery from a movie!” She continued, “it feels more Grebel! It facilitates community because it’s not so cut off from the rest of the dining room.”
At almost twice the size, with large windows and a clearstory for natural lighting, the new kitchen is spacious and open. “I’m most excited about the design,” commented Justin Nickel, a 2nd year resident. “I personally love the way it looks from the outside. I like that it’s more open.”
Paul Penner, director of operations, added that the open design “allows you to easily see and talk to the kitchen staff at work which reminds us all that this is a joint enterprise and we’re all in it together helping each other succeed.”
“I am excited that the upgrade will benefit all of the students as well as kitchen staff.” said Cameron Sjaarda a 2nd year resident. “Staff work very hard every day to serve us meals and I am glad that they now have an even better place to work in.”
With so much more space, the kitchen has many new features like a separate area to prepare and serve food for those with dietary restrictions, more food storage, and height adjustable counters. “My favorite piece of new equipment is the char broiler.” Cheri Otterbein, the food services manager, explained, "It can grill burgers, vegetables, and flatbread. It’s like having a BBQ in the kitchen!” She continued, “I love the open kitchen design so students can see us chopping vegetables, preparing fruit trays, and mixing cookies, and know that we are preparing many items from scratch for them and not simply opening packages of premade salads or cookies.”
In the same way that the kitchen is better equipped for larger crowds, so is the dining room. With a 10-foot expansion onto the patio and updated technology, the dining room is now prepared for up to 300 people. Paul explained, “The previous dining room was known for its big windows and round tables, both elements are preserved in the new design. Now, we also have upgraded lighting, built-in presentation technology, and the space to accommodate a much greater variety of events. On-line meetings are here to stay so we’re embracing them and ensuring our spaces are suitably equipped.”
Part of the dining room expansion includes the addition of a staircase and elevator leading to the chapel foyer, which is well underway. Paul stated that once it’s finished, this space will provide “a clear path through the building from the entrance, through the dining room, to the Chapel and it’s a path everyone can use.”This path and many others will be made more accessible with the installation of power operators to 16 doors in the building.
Additional renovations this summer turned the two single rooms in the residence into barrier-free, gender-neutral washrooms. The “Welcoming Washrooms” project has provided a $100,000 grant to Grebel from Employment and Social Services Canada. This grant will fund power-operated doors throughout the College and the renovation of the chapel foyer washroom into an additional barrier-free, gender-neutral washroom.
“Grebel strives to create a warm and welcoming environment which fosters community,” added Paul. “In the end, this project is about extending the table and allowing everyone to feel welcome!”
Construction will continue this fall on the remaining areas.