LEWISTON — Officials from Niagara University celebrated a ceremonial groundbreaking of an $8 million renovation and expansion of its dining facility located at Clet Hall on Friday.

The new, 20,000-square-foot Clet Dining Commons will open this fall. 

“The new and improved dining commons will provide our students and university community with a state-of-the-art facility that aligns with our enduring pledge to maximize our commitment to excellence and showcase the beauty of our campus surroundings,” said university president, the Rev. James Maher.

The university is receiving support from Metz Culinary Management, its on-campus food service contractor, on the project. In addition, NU has been working with local legislative leaders, including New York state Sen. Robert G. Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, and Assemblyman John D. Ceretto, D-Lewiston, to make the project possible.

“We are continuously seeking to improve the student experience at Niagara University while also meeting an increasing demand for on-campus event and dining facilities,” Maher said. “This project has truly been a collaborative effort, involving students, employees, and our partners at Metz Culinary Management. We are also grateful to Sen. Ortt and Assemblyman Ceretto for their support."

In January, students were invited to participate in a presentation for the new dining hall and vote on concepts for the interior design.

Preliminary construction on the facility, including the installation of construction fencing, began April 11. Construction is expected to continue throughout the summer. 

“I was pleased to help secure this funding to make the dining hall renovation and expansion a reality for the students of Niagara University,” Ortt said. “It will transform the facility into a state-of-the-art, eco-friendly space where students can unwind, enjoy each other’s company, and collaborate with others on campus. This money will allow NU to thrive in our local economy and become an even bigger draw for high-quality students, locally and nationwide.”

“The student body will love the new look and new amenities that will be available at the completion of this project," added Ceretto. "I am excited to be here today to celebrate the groundbreaking at my alma mater, and to have been able to request funding for this project."

Improvements offered by the new dining commons include:

• An open kitchen concept with new food preparation and serving areas

• New seating options, including banquette/booth seating, a mix of round, rectangular and square tables and chairs, lounge seating within the dining area, and high-top tables and stool seating

• A new patio with green space, patio-style tables and chairs, flowering planters, and a rain barrel to support 875 square feet of green space for container plantings of herbs and native plants

• A new dining addition with seating for 230 for sit-down dining. The addition can also be used as a theatre-style setup for 250, with a projector and presentation screen;

• Mobile device charging stations, and digital televisions and displays

• Focused on energy efficiency, the facility will feature new rooftop units, kitchen equipment, and a dishwashing machine, all of which will save on utility expenses.

Clet Hall was constructed in 1862 to house Our Lady of Angels Seminary, the institution that was the forerunner of Niagara University. The building is named for Francis Regis Clet, a Frenchman who served as a Vincentian missionary in China for the last 30 years of his life. The multi-use complex now serves as a residence hall and dining commons, while also housing the spectacular William P. and Marie Leary Theatre and Elizabeth Ann Clune Centre for Theatre.

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