Fisher announces new cafeteria, residence hall

UPDATED AT 8 p.m.:

Hours after announcing the construction a new cafeteria and new residence hall, Belmont president Bob Fisher said blasting for both buildings should begin as soon as possible.

“We feel we have to begin immediately to get it done by the fall [2015],” Fisher said in a conversation with the Vision Thursday afternoon.

Much like the Wedgewood Academic Center, most of the development of the building by 15th and Caldwell avenues will happen after the university announced it.

Fisher said it’s too early to publicly talk about cost “until schematic designs are complete” and wouldn’t specify which schools or departments would be considered for the space.

He also said the lack of specifics doesn’t mean the university just decided to start construction without looking at details.

“It’s more thoughtful and deliberate than that,” he said. “We want to use this as an opportunity to have departments dream about how to use that space.”

Blasting for the cafeteria is expected to begin near the end of the spring semester and will become a constant during the summer months. The 1000-car garage will “by far the biggest hole we’ve ever dug.”

“We’re just timing it so that the worst inconvenience for students and faculty will be in the summer,” Fisher said.

Once the building is finished, he is optimistic it will be a major improvement over the status quo that can attract more students and members of the community.

“We’re going to make it a desirable place, a place people want to go,” Fisher said.

What will become of the current cafeteria at the Gabhart Student Center hasn’t been decided yet, but Fisher said the school was looking at several ideas such as expanding the Belmont bookstore into space now occupied.

“There are opportunities to bring some things back that we haven’t looked at in a while,” he said.

The new residence hall across the street from Kennedy Hall will likely not require blasting, Fisher said. Metro property records show a university holding group purchased two pieces of property next to Kennedy last September and December for $675,000 and $770,000 respectively.

REPORTED EARLIER:

Belmont University has announced two new major on-campus building projects, both of which will begin construction in weeks.

Belmont President Bob Fisher said in a campus email Thursday morning that the two projects will include a 120,000 square foot building between the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center and Kennedy Hall that will house a new dining hall, plus a 415-bed residence hall across the street from Kennedy. Construction on the dining hall building will begin “almost immediately”, while work on the residence hall will start in March, according to the email.

Both buildings were approved by the university’s Board of Trustees last month.

“Both of these projects are being designed to add to the quality of life and the improvement of learning for the entire Belmont community, especially our students,” Fisher said.

The building on 15th and Caldwell avenues will have classroom and office space in addition to the dining hall. The cafeteria will seat two-and-a-half times more people than the Gabhart dining hall currently seats. The building, expected to open in fall 2015, will also have a 1000-seat underground parking garage accessible at the corner of 15th and Wedgewood avenues.

The announced residence hall is projected to open in fall 2014 and will house more than 400 people in a mix of apartment- and suite-style rooms. The building is expected to be six floors, 141,000 square feet and provide an additional 354 parking spaces.

Fisher said in the email that the university plans to hold open forums and focus groups to receive more input “as we seek to move forward from a general schematic design to the specifics.”

“I hope you will all be alert to opportunities for providing your input as we seek to meet the needs of the Belmont community for now and the future,” he said.

According to a university neighborhood newsletter, Belmont will hold a community meeting about these projects on Mon., March 4 at 6 p.m. in room 249 of the Baskin Center.

This is a developing story. Check belmontvision.com for future updates.

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