Wait- Why Are We Renovating The Cafeteria?

Last summer, FRCC Westminster began the process of renovating the cafeteria into the Wolf Cafe. While originally planned to open for the fall semester of 2022, delays in the design process lead to that date being pushed back to the beginning of the spring semester in January. Still, though, the cafe has yet to open, leading a number of students to question not only why the completion is coming so late, but whether the 1.2 million dollar renovation was even necessary in the first place.

The delays in the renovation of the Wolf Cafe were, according to Stephen Graziano, FRCC’s Managing Architect, caused by delays in an entirely different project. 

“The completion of this project has always been tied to the completion of another project with a different schedule, so it’s difficult to categorize the [cafe] project as ‘delayed,’” Graziano said. 

That other project, a state funded mechanical project, had its own issues. 

“Although the construction of the Café renovation was ready to start in July of 2022, the State Funded mechanical project lagged in funding, design, ordering equipment, and was on a different completion path,” Graziano said. “The college made the decision, since the Kitchen could not be opened without a renovation, to start construction of the Café renovation in August of 2022 while we started the design of the mechanical equipment project. Although the college had hoped for a better alignment of the two project schedules, it appears that we are headed for both projects completing in March 2023.”

The project was also slowed down to reduce noise for events being hosted in the area.

“Since the mechanical project’s schedule was the critical path schedule wise, the college was able to ask the contractor to work with us to limit construction noise for events that occurred in the Rocky Mountain Room, the Rotunda, and adjacent meeting rooms,” Graziano said. “This amounted to almost 5 weeks where the contractor was asked to limit activities or not to work.” 

A crane removing old mechanical equipment. Photo by Seth Ciancio.
Workers installing the new rooftop unit that took so long to get ahold of. Photo by Seth Ciancio.

Photos of the various cafeterias that existed at FRCC throughout its history.

FRCC’s Original Cafeteria, located on the A level, underneath the B level’s western seating area, which did not exist at this time. Circa 1980s.
FRCC Westminster’s second cafeteria, located on the B level, where there is now a seating area.
FRCC Westminster’s third (and most recent) cafeteria, located in the Rotunda.

Luckily, those delays in construction have not resulted in budget overruns. 

“Currently the project is on-budget, and the delays of opening have not cost additional construction dollars,” Graziano said.

That said, what was wrong with the cafeteria in the first place? For one, it was expensive. 

“The cafeteria has never run at a profit,” Dr. Tricia Johnson, FRCC Westminster Vice President, said. “Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cafeteria had an operating loss of $76k – $88k annually. With the new ‘Grab & Go’ model, we hope to reduce our losses.”

Of course, even assuming that the new “Grab & Go” model totally breaks even, which is far from a guarantee, it would take over 13 years for the college to break even on the cost of the 1.2 million dollar renovation. However, the college likely needed to spend at least some of that money regardless.

“When the Café was closed in the Spring of 2020 because of COVID, there were many deficiencies in the existing Kitchen that would prevent it from ever opening without a major renovation,” Graziano said. “The walk-in coolers/freezers needed to be replaced, the gas piping was leaking, and the two Makeup Air Units (MAU) that provided heating and cooling to the kitchen had failed beyond repair. After construction began, several additional deficiencies in the kitchen were discovered that needed to be resolved.  It was partially because of these deficiencies in the existing kitchen that led the college to make the decision to renovate and move to a ‘Grab & Go’ model with new menu items with healthy options. After some feasibility studies were completed, the design of the ‘Grab & Go’ started in January of 2022 to create a new menu and to design the new space.”

The final question is, then, what’s next for the project? 

“We currently have two hurdles to opening the Café,” Graziano said, “and that is obtaining fire alarm permits from the City of Westminster and finalizing the controls programming for the new RTU.  While these are sizable hurdles, we are tracking to complete construction by the end of March.”

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