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Bona putting $3.5 million into food service update

St. Bonaventure University may get a bum rap for its food, but look what's cooking on campus.

The university is reinventing its food service operation, with a $3.5 million addition and makeover to its dining hall, school officials announced Thursday. Another $4.5 million will go into updating student housing.

The $8 million announced Thursday is just a slice of the new construction expected to begin this summer on the Southern Tier campus, said Sister Margaret Carney, university president.

"This summer, our campus will see a transformation that includes building in support of academics, and renovations in support of student life and community," she said in a prepared statement. "It is thrilling to launch a renovation that will have multiple benefits for the maximum number of students."

St. Bonaventure, for three years running, has had the dubious honor of ranking No. 1 for the worst food among the 361 colleges in the controversial Princeton Review ratings guide.

University officials downplayed that as a reason for renovations to Hickey Dining Hall.

The hall was built in 1930, and last renovated in the 1970s, so modernizing it has been part of the university's master plan, said Brenda McGee Snow, vice president for business and finance.

"We certainly recognize the facility was in need of renovations, and not where we want it to be," Snow said.

Plans show a 5,000-square-foot addition to the dining hall, and a complete overhaul to the main dining room. The dining area will be redesigned and include new flooring, lighting, tables, chairs and food stations.

The renovation also will allow the school to expand and change its menu, based upon student surveys and focus groups.

Plans for Shay-Loughlen residence halls, meanwhile, include a transformation of one of the buildings into suites. The other building will receive significant upgrades. Improvements to the other campus residence halls are planned for 2007.

St. Bonaventure is financing the project with $8 million in tax-exempt bonds approved Thursday by the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency.

Construction at the dining hall and residence halls will begin as soon as classes end.

It should make for a busy summer on the campus. Construction on St. Bonaventure's new science wing and library -- projects that have been announced previously -- also will begin this summer.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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