URI’s Butterfield Dining Hall opens to rave reviews

Butterfield (residence) Hall gets expanded lounge, new patio

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 6, 2015 – The reviews of the refurbished and expanded Butterfield Hall at the University of Rhode Island are in and they are spectacular.

“More efficient, better food choices, more comfortable and brighter,” are among the terms used to describe the dining facility, originally built in 1950 and named for former URI President Kenyon L. Butterfield. The University closed the dining hall in December 2014, and eight months later, it reopened.

While students have been dining at Butterfield since the start of the semester, University officials, students and staff officially celebrated the re-opening of the facility today and all of the positive buzz surrounding the $12 million project, which also included expansion and improvements to the accompanying residence hall’s lounge and the addition of a patio.

Of the total project cost, $8 million comes from Dining Services reserves, with an additional $1.1 million from Housing and Residential Life reserves. A standby generator was included in the project for fire protection, which allows the dining hall to shelter the campus community in the event of a power outage. A $175,000 auxiliary fire safety Rhode Island Health and Education Building Corporation (RIBEC) account funded the generator. As with all major projects, the University takes the opportunity to improve the surrounding utilities and landscape from its asset protection accounts for new steam line and road paving.

The completion of the Butterfield project is the last piece of a total makeover of the Freshman Village. In 2000, the University began a $64 million renovation and expansion project that included Adams, Barlow, Bressler, Browning, Butterfield, and Weldin residence halls.

Students have plenty of good things to say about the Butterfield dining hall project.

“I like the big picture windows because I like to people watch,” said Matt Warner, a sophomore from Barkhamsted, Conn.

“I like that there is a second beverage station,” said Jessica Pemberton, also a sophomore from Westchester, N.Y. “I like the layout and the burrito station. There are lots of choices for toppings.”

The wall of windows along Butterfield Road, and five skylights provide the dining area with plenty of natural light. The original dining area was 10,000 square feet and it accommodated 380 diners. With the addition of 7,500 square feet, and complete renovation of the existing space, the new dining hall can now accommodate 562 diners.

“We talk constantly about creating a strong community at the University of Rhode Island, and this expanded and improved dining hall, coupled with improvements to the Butterfield (residence) Hall, are important steps in that process,” URI President David M. Dooley said. “I congratulate all who played a role, not only in developing a great place to eat, but also in creating a gathering place to relax with friends and a state-of-the art facility where dining staff can more easily interact with the students they so very much love to serve.”

A new standby generator, which will go on automatically in the event of a power failure, is powerful enough to keep all systems running in the building so dining services will not be interrupted.

In addition to the burrito station, there is a new deli and an expanded soft-serve ice cream station, which join the old favorite stations, homestyle, omelets, pizza and breakfast. In fact, all of the serving areas are more efficient and compact. And instead of the old, long tables, there are several seating options designed to encourage small-group gatherings. Large video monitors are placed at every serving area and at the entrance so students can easily see the menu before choosing a station. It’s also fully air-conditioned.

“What a great addition to the neighborhood,” said Christina L. Valentino, vice president for administration and finance. “I congratulate my colleagues, past and present, especially those in Business Services, Capital Projects, Campus Planning and Design, Student Affairs, Dining Services and Housing and Residential Life for their vision in creating a distinct, welcoming and modern district for the campus community. Given some of the challenges we faced on this site and the remarkably brutal winter, it was no small task to get the dining hall open on time. Back in 2000, our slogan for the Freshman Village Project was ‘Making Something Old New Again’. Well, thanks to a lot of hard work, we have done it again with this wonderful dining space and improvements to the residence hall.”

Tamera Garlington, a sophomore from Providence said the food is great, but there are other pluses.

“The staff here is very friendly, and I think they like these changes as much as we do,” she said.

Her friend, Magda Flores, a sophomore from Providence, also loves the burrito bar with all of its choices. “Plus, this is so much more spacious. Now you can take your time and enjoy eating with your friends.”

Lauren Capron, a sophomore from Foster, said the large interior waiting area eliminates long lines outside—not a big deal in nice weather, but not so nice in the middle of February.

Thomas R. Dougan, vice president for Student Affairs, said, “Nothing can help ease a stressful day like sitting down with friends to enjoy a great hot meal in a warm and welcoming environment. We know our students will enjoy this for many years to come. The improvement to and expansion of the facilities in the residence hall give our students more comfortable and spacious areas in which to study and gather informally. We know the new patio will fast become a favorite meeting place.”

Steven E. Mello, director of Dining and Retail Food Services, said, “We didn’t have flexibility with the ceiling height so we brought in light with a wall of windows and skylights. We added color and texture to the interior, and they make a huge difference. The dining staff has always been dedicated to providing great service, but while Butterfield was closed, it was difficult for them. I thank all members of the team for helping us accommodate students during the construction period.”

Butterfield residence hall lounge and deck

As part of the project, the student lounge suite in the residence hall doubled in size and was refurbished. The suite houses a study area, lounge, restroom, vending area and access to the new roof patio. The patio features concrete planters, a raised wooden deck and stone pavers. There are seating walls and built-in benches offering an outdoor social gathering space for the resident community.

Vision 3 Architects of Providence designed the project, and the contractor is Trac Builders of Providence.

Pictured Above

From left URI freshmen, Eliza Rosen, of Westchester, N.Y, Krista Boylen of Gorham, Maine and Caroline Gadde of Southboro, Mass. enjoy lunch earlier this semester at Butterfield Dining Hall.

URI sophomores from Providence Magda Flores, left, and Tamera Garlington, chat during lunch at Butterfield Dining Hall.

Students walk outside the refurbished and expanded Butterfield Dining Hall at URI.

URI photos by Nora Lewis.