More Than a Cafeteria: A Look at McFall Hall Renovations


Workers outside McFall Hall lay foundation for the new renovation. Photo Credit: Parker Conquest

Workers outside McFall Hall lay foundation for the new renovation.
Photo credit: Parker Conquest.

This August, students returned to Collegiate to find a substantial collection of dirt, cement, and heavy machinery surrounding McFall Hall. Though the construction zone appears unsightly at the moment, by August 2017 the mounds of dirt will have given way to a modernized school cafeteria as part of an ambitious, $5.8 million endeavor.

Heading the 15-month renovation project is Director of Facilities Management and Construction Scott Carson. Although this renovation came as news to many students, the project has been in the works for a while. “Planning for this building has been going on for a very long time,” remarked Carson. He explained that the current cafeteria is “a bit out of date, both in terms of function, size, and life-safety features,” which should not come as a surprise, considering the building’s age.

McFall Hall first opened its doors in 1961 as Memorial Hall. “It was designed in the late 1950s for late 1950s service,” asserts Carson, citing the insufficient space, limited serving stations, and life-safety code transgressions. Presently, Collegiate can pack a maximum of 300 people into the 9,500 square feet of McFall Hall, but as Carson remarked “that’s pretty tight when you think about it – not a lot of elbow room.” In addition to the “space crunch,” McFall Hall suffers from a lack of efficiency. The current cafeteria has only three serving lines, wasting precious minutes of the students’ 25 minute lunch period — especially on chicken tender day. Furthermore, safety features in McFall Hall, which were built to code in the 1960s, now fall short of life-safety benchmarks. “Memorial Hall was not built with a sprinkler system,” says Carson, admitting that there are numerous other features that fall short of modern life-safety codes.

Architectural depiction of the southern end of McFall Hall, post-renovation. Photo Credit: Tymoff Moss Architects via Scott Carson

Architectural depiction of the southern end of McFall Hall, post-renovation.
Image credit: Tymoff Moss Architects via Scott Carson

Fortunately, the renovation not only addresses these longstanding grievances but also includes several new features sure to please students and faculty alike. The new McFall Hall is set to be over 15,500 square feet, boasting a capacity of 450 people. It will extend toward North Mooreland Road, creating what Carson calls “partitionable space.” “We figured the cafeteria could really be more of a multipurpose building,” says Carson. “The extension we’re building on the stage,” he explains, “we’ll be able to close that off and create a meeting room or a classroom.”

McFall will also be extended southward toward the Middle School lawn, reaching the former location of the patio steps. The southern end, shown in the architectural rendering above, will sport an H2L2-esque curved glass wall flanked by two large brick entrances, which, according to Carson, will “make the building more architecturally balanced.” In reference to the beloved patio, Carson explains that the school is “trying to really maximize and make efficient all the space around the building, but also maintain some of the features that we love here.” As such, the south end of McFall will continue to feature an outdoor dining patio.

Other notable additions will include updated safety features, an extra serving line, a reconfigured dish return, and an upper level for dining. The additional serving line and improved dish return promise to enhance efficiency, allowing the cafeteria to “serve lunch a little bit quicker and allow students more time to sit down at their table.” The upper level, or “mezzanine level,” will offer a view of the dining facilities below and seat 40 addition people.

Food Services Director Andy Harrison points out another perk to the renovation: a major pizza upgrade. “Pizza’s one of the things I don’t think we currently do really well, and a lot of that is because of the restraints we have oven-wise.” As a result of the McFall renovations, the kitchen will have space for three “pizza impingers,” described by Harrison as “pizza conveyor ovens.” “They’ll be coming out fresh all throughout lunch,” he says, and, much to the delight of the pizza-philic student body, pizzas will no longer be premade or square. “It’s gonna’ be a lot more like pizza you see at a real restaurant,” Harrison claims. “We’ll be able to do a lot more round pizzas,” he explains, “where we sauce them, [and] we top them.” In addition to upgraded pizza equipment, the kitchen will gain cooking and storage space, including a walk-in freezer, furthering the practicality of the renovation.

Carson envisions that when the McFall Hall renovations are finally complete in August 2017, Collegiate will have “a very nice landmark” that will have “excellent curb appeal from the street” yet still maintain “great functionality for the school itself.” “Food is the lifeblood of the school,” he remarks. “It’s something we all partake in.” Indeed, the new McFall Hall will serve as more than a place for students to eat, acting as a hub of student life and a gathering place for Middle and Upper School cougars alike.

About the author

Parker Conquest is a senior at Collegiate School.