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Facelift for Lombard Dining Hall creates buzz at Nichols

By Rod Lee

Life in the dining hall at college may arguably be a more enjoyable and rewarding experience than even those moments accrued in the classroom, in the dorm, in the library, in the auditorium, in the gymnasium or on the athletic field—given that this is where new friends are made, stimulating conversation is conducted and the world’s most pressing issues are resolved.

This is undoubtedly no less or more true in Lombard Dining Hall at Nichols College than at Fredonia State’s Cranston Marche, Assumption’s Taylor (both of which are all-you-care-to-eat operations), Becker’s Boutin and Wellesley’s choice of five such facilities.

Built in 1974, Nichols’ Lombard Dining Hall is every bit as much an architectural wonder with  shimmering white columns and walls, pitched roof high above the floor and sunlight streaming in from overhead and through the many windows—as it is a place frequented for breakfast, lunch and dinner during the academic year by more than 900 resident students, 37 students who commute (who have food plans), 40-60 members of the faculty and staff, and guests.

Lombard, on Center Road in Dudley, underwent renovations in 2005, at which time the facility was dedicated to David Lombard (ʼ65 trustee emeritus) and his wife Susan. Today, 12 years later, Lombard is being upgraded again. Nichols’ Board of Trustees approved the $9 million project in October and construction started December 15 according to Robert LaVigne and Lorraine U. Martinelle. Target date for completion of the overhaul is 2021.

“The faculty-staff lunch room was taken down and its walls removed, so that now there is one large open space,” Ms. Martinelle, director of public relations and social media at Nichols, told Yankee Xpress, in reference to the initial phase of the job.

Mr. LaVigne, associate vice president for facilities management at Nichols, said the current objective is threefold: 1) modernize the dining experience; 2) eliminate all deferred maintenance; and 3) if possible, increase the capacity of the hall.

At nearly 25,000 square feet, Lombard is already quite spacious. The remodeling will add 1500 square feet and boost the capacity for diners from 350 to approximately 450. It will also build on the successful design and construction of the academic building and the Fels Student Center, both of which are fairly new on campus.

The new Lombard “will completely change the dining experience for Nichols’ students,” Sodexo’s David Hebert, who is director of dining at the school, said. It is easy to see why. Components of the rebuild include a reconfigured dining area, a Neapolitan-style brick oven for gourmet pizza, a larger deli sandwich station and expanded dual-sided, self-serve soup-and-salad bar. Add to this a new cathedral ceiling and roof, new energy-efficient windows for lots of natural light, new flooring, furniture and décor, the relocated and easily accessible entrance and exit doors and bathrooms and new independent serving stations to include “on-demand” hoods and variable-speed vents to manage energy consumption.

“Renovating Lombard Dining Hall is an exciting project for the Nichols College community,” Ms. Martinelle said. “Dining is obviously an essential part of the campus life experience, so we want to ensure the spot where they spend so much of their time during the day and evening will meet their needs. Students and their families look for modern amenities; stylish and inviting design; and a bounty of healthy, quality food choices. We’re sure the new Lombard Dining Hall will meet—and exceed—their expectations.”

An “Information Session” scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon on January 20 will give Nichols a chance to tout the school’s 94% job placement rate after six months, its standing as the 14th best business school in the country and the 13th highest for economic mobility.

The new Lombard Dining Hall is sure to be mentioned as well.

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.