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Paresky Commons Renovation Blog

Paresky Commons Update #5: The Grand Opening

April 17, 2009

The walkways in front of the building are still under construction and the lawns have yet to be seeded, but all that has been easily overlooked by PA community members who have spent the last three weeks enjoying the fantastic new features inside the newly opened Paresky Commons.  From the pizzas and calzones baked in the large hearth oven to the sandwich bar in the first floor café to the big screen TV and disco lights of “The Den,” students and staff alike have been busy exploring and sampling the many delights the renovated facility has to offer, while also appreciating the retention of many of the building’s most beloved features, such as the marble staircases and the mahogany walls.
The official opening of Paresky was held on Monday, March 30, and as expected, the lines were long as everyone excitedly roamed about the different serveries investigating the many new culinary options and adjusting to new traffic patterns. A couple unexpected fire alarms later in the first week added to the memories, but by the first weekend, which brought the first dance to The Den, formerly known as the Ryley Room, the community was comfortably settling into the refurbished facility. After serving as the center of Andover life for more than 75 years, the building with these newest improvements, is ready to fulfill that role for at least 75 more.
To view photos of opening day and the first weekend dance, click here.

Paresky Commons Update #4: Ready to Roll

March 10, 2009

The renovation of Andover’s revered dining hall is all but complete, and the countdown to opening day—March 29—has begun. The new tables are in place, the walls and counter tops are scrubbed and polished, and the fire in the floor-to-ceiling pizza oven has been lit. Other than attending to a few last minute details and providing more equipment training for the kitchen staff, all that remains is to bring in the people.

For a sneak peek at the interior of Paresky Commons, visit our newest photo gallery. The photographs were taken by Phillipian photographers Adam Levine and Taryn Ferguson during a recent tour of the facility.

The final meal in UnCommons will be held on Friday, March 13, after which students will leave for Spring Break. When they return, Paresky Commons will be open and ready for business, with the first meal slated for 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 29. Full details about hours of operation, menus, and sustainable dining efforts will soon be posted on the Paresky Commons Web site.

While students, staff, and faculty all eagerly await the much-anticipated opening of Paresky Commons, it is with both fondness and gratitude that we say farewell to UnCommons, which has served so well as an interim dining facility. Since January 1, 2008, the former skating rink has served more than one million meals, and its open space dining hall helped generate a sense of community that all enjoyed.

As a way of honoring and saying farewell to UnCommons, the school hosted a “Harry Potter Theme Night” last Thursday evening, during which UnCommons was converted into a replica of the Hogwarts dining hall. Faculty and students dressed up as wizards, witches, and muggles, while the kitchen staff contributed special wizard-world fare, such as butter beer and Honeydukes treats.

Discussions are still ongoing as to how the UnCommons building will be used in the future but, at the very least, it is sure to play a role as a venue for special events.

Paresky Commons Update #3: Nearly Done

February 4, 2009

Paresky Commons is a busy place these days as dozens of workers finish up their carpentry, wiring, plumbing, painting, cleaning, and equipment installation and testing (including ovens, broilers, blast chillers, fryers, dishwashers, and the extractor/pulper system). Kitchen familiarization for the Aramark dining services staff begins February 10 in anticipation of opening day on Sunday, March 29. Within 24 hours of opening, Paresky Commons will be serving an average of 3,300 meals per day.

Dining halls: Paneling has been cleaned and repaired; chandeliers have been cleaned, rewired, and relamped; wireless Internet access has been installed; acoustic panels (not visible) have been added to ceilings; a long U-shaped serving counter has been added to create a café area in lower left.

Foyer and stairways: The Alabama limestone walls have been cleaned and repaired.

Serveries: The first-floor servery’s hearth oven is nearing completion; self-serve stations (salad bar, deli bar, etc.) have been installed. In the second-floor servery, white oak cabinetry and beams, Vermont slate floor tiles, and recycled quartz countertops help create a warm and inviting ambiance.

Second-floor dining/meeting rooms: These have been repainted and recarpeted; murals will be cleaned and restored in the next few weeks.

The basement-level student lounge: This area, formerly known as the Ryley Room, has  been enlarged and completely renovated with a new food service area, as well as new booths, flooring, stage, lighting, sound, TV, LCD screen, and projector. Spanning the west end of the building (just outside the student lounge) is a large handicapped-accessible sunken terrace that will offer additional space for student gatherings.

Paresky Commons Update #2: Excavation & Infrastructure

April 7, 2008

As the newest images in our photo gallery indicate, work is progressing both inside and outside the building.

Outside the building, crews are well along in their excavation of the West Terrace area outside of the Ryley room, and are starting to work on the concrete ramp and stairs. Excavation of the loading dock is also underway, as is the excavation work on the southwest stairs, where workers will build footings to support the brickwork that will clad the tower.

Down in the basement of the building, a mini “steam shovel” digs a pit that will accommodate grease collection tanks and an extractor. Sinks, kettles, dishwashers and floor drains will be piped here so waste water can be filtered, preventing grease from gumming-up the sewer system and contributing to pollution. Meanwhile, the first phase of the Ryley Room’s makeover are well underway.

Upstairs, in the first and second floor servery, workers are building new concrete shear walls, and in the foyer, workers are creating the steel supports needed for the three new openings that will be made in the center wall.

Those interested in sustainability will be pleased to know that PA is following the LEED-CI process of Construction Waste Management. As of February 28, 2008, PA has diverted the following quantities of construction, demolition, and packaging debris to uses other than landfill:

  • Miscellaneous Kitchen: Equipment Reuse off campus with 2 tons diverted
  • Limestone and granit: Reuse on campus with 53 tons diverted
  • Miscellaneous Kitchen items: Reuse on campus with 4 tons diverted
  • Construction Debris: Recycled 72 tons
  • Metals: Recycled 82 tons
  • Concrete/Masonry: Recycled 768 tons
  • Non-ferrous materials: Recycled 5 tons

Paresky Commons Update #1: Demolition

March 1, 2008

Eight weeks into this 15-month campaign, we continue with preliminaries. Demolition remains the focus, along with an assessment of problems only demolition could reveal, plus protection of what is to stay and be restored. In addition, the first elements of the finished project are underway.

To document what’s up, we’ve added seven new photographs to the Photo Gallery. The first photo of the building exterior orients you. Second, protection of a first-floor dining hall, in preparation for opening the ceiling. Third, the nasty, heavy work of demolition. In the gutted basement kitchen, a bobcat hammers away around a column. The floor is being removed in order to install a much larger footing for one of the structural columns, as well as to test the subsoil and install new drains. Fourth, an image of what was the Ryley Room – sans finishes, sans floor – with the newly created doorway for the exterior entrance that will eventually open onto the sunken terrace on the building’s west side. For the present, this is the exit for demolition debris.

Fifth, the second-floor servery, stripped to structure. This was essential, given the massive amount of new ductwork and plumbing to be installed. Gutting to structure had the collateral benefit of revealing a long-standing leak in the south exterior wall. Corrective measures are on the to-do list. Sixth, back to the basement for the first new work accomplished: sub-floor drain lines. The photograph shows the piping being backfilled in preparation for laying a new floor.

Seventh, outside: the demolition of the 1980 loading dock and stair tower, which is to be replaced by an improved loading dock, plus a trash and recycling area, and a larger freight elevator.

PA Community Embraces Temporary Dining Hall

February 4, 2008

The decommissioned Sumner Smith Rink has found new life as a temporary dining facility for the PA community while Commons undergoes renovation. The rink was transformed into a pleasant dining hall with work begun last summer. On January 2, the rink was open to serve its first meal to students returning from the Christmas break.

Dubbed “UnCommons” by the students, the building seats about 600 in a single room. Though the atmosphere is different from that of Commons, which consists of four separate dining halls, students and faculty alike have praised the facility for both its ambiance and the quality of its food service.

“The food quality, presentation, and overall atmosphere have more than exceeded expectations,” read an editorial in the January 11 issue of the Phillipian. “Overall, students, faculty, and the dining staff alike are pleased with UnCommons….”

Other students have echoed those sentiments, complimenting not only the food quality but the “sense of togetherness” fostered by the layout of the tables in the single-room dining hall.

In addition to serving a menu similar to that which was served at Commons, UnCommons has brought in some notable and appreciated additions, including pasta and protein “sizzle” stations, paninis at lunch, convenient pre-made wrap sandwiches, and a self-serve deli for those in need of lunch on the run.

Although pleased with the overall transition to UnCommons, food services personnel have been actively seeking suggestions for making further improvements to the facility’s operation by encouraging submissions to a “Fishing for Feedback” bulletin board that gives diners the opportunity to post comments, questions, and complaints. Submissions receive a response from the director of food services the next day and have resulted in several operational improvements since the hall’s opening.

For those students who don’t have time for the extra two-minute walk to UnCommons, another temporary dining solution has been provided— a 20-foot custom food-service van dubbed “The Ryley Roller.” The van is parked daily near the Elson Art Center and provides students with a convenient place to grab a free light breakfast or mid-afternoon snack.

In the months ahead, UnCommons will host many celebrations, activities, and events formerly held in Commons dining halls, Ropes Salon, and the Rose and Blue rooms. Although its use after Commons reopens in 2009 has not been specified, the revitalized facility will continue to be tapped for student, faculty, staff, and alumni gatherings of many types and sizes.

Commons to be Named to Honor Donor

January 25, 2008

When Commons reopens in spring 2009, it will be named in honor of the donor whose $10 million lead gift made it possible for the Board of Trustees to launch this much-needed project. David S. Paresky ’56, with his wife, Linda, made the gift in 2004, in anticipation of his 50th Reunion in 2006. Initially an anonymous gift and unrestricted, the board designated it for the Commons project and decided to name the building accordingly.

Though reluctant to step into the spotlight, Paresky agreed to reveal his identity in hopes of inspiring others to support future generations of Andover students. The Commons gift adds to previous gifts David and Linda Paresky have made, beginning with annual gifts to the Andover Fund. In 1978, the David S. Paresky Scholarship was created and the Pareskys have added to it regularly over the years—and have made further contributions to other scholarship endowments, as well.

“Our gift is really a tribute to my parents, who were living examples to me of non sibi,” said David Paresky, in an interview two years ago. “As do many parents, my parents worked and often struggled to provide a better life and opportunities for their children.”

UnCommons Sports New Mural

January 16, 2008

Maine artist Wade Zahares has brought color, excitement, and a view to Uncommons with his lively mural that looks from behind an imaginary student’s desk to campus landmarks and the world beyond. He calls his piece “Beyond the Blue,” because it propels the viewer to look beyond the confines of Andover to the wider world, and the future. (Read more…)

Historic Commons Undergoes Major Renovation

December 12, 2007

Fifteen-month-long project will preserve historical features while enhancing and modernizing the building’s dining facilities.

With the departure of Phillips Academy students this Friday for winter vacation, Andover’s venerable dining hall will be shuttered for more than a year as it undergoes what Head of School Barbara Landis Chase has called “a transformation.”

Among the main goals of the ambitious $30-million project, which was approved by the Board of Trustees last January, are:

  • Enhance and diversify the Commons dining experience to better support its function as the primary gathering place for the Andover community.
  • Expand and transform student social space in Commons, and create new outdoor social spaces around Commons.
  • Replace the building’s kitchen and serveries in order to upgrade menu variety and quality.
  • Replace systems and infrastructure and make Commons fully handicapped accessible.
  • Create an environmentally responsible building that meets LEED certification requirements.
  • Retain and restore the historic interiors that make Commons such a compelling and memorable environment.

Some of the specific improvements to be completed as part of the project include the creation of centralized food preparation and service areas on both floors that will feature multiple serving stations and, on the first floor, a massive hearth oven; an extended-hours café; a refurbished and expanded Ryley Room (the student snack and leisure area); new terraces and seating areas in front of Commons and along its west side, and a sunken terrace outside the Ryley Room; new lighting and other visual enhancements to upgrade the entire dining experience; and wireless Internet access throughout. The result, as Chase explains in the Winter 2008 issue of the Bulletin, will be a facility that is more than just a dining hall. It will be a true center of community social interaction.

Equally important is the project’s sensitivity to the building’s historical significance. The plans developed by Schwartz/Silver Architects of Boston call for the preservation of the historic and aesthetic assets of this 1930 landmark, such as the limestone staircases, Georgian Style paneling, and chandeliers – all designed by campus architect Charles Adams Platt—and the Barry Faulkner murals.

Environmental concerns are also a driving force in the remaking of Commons, with decisions being made to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification through the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council. LEED ratings provide an internationally recognized system for certifying high-performance green interiors that are healthy, and productive work places.

The completed project, Chase says will “turn that beloved facility into a gracious and lively center for both students and faculty—a place to greet and meet classmates, colleagues, and friends, to collaborate on projects, to socialize and have special events. With the changes we are making, Commons will become a true community center where students and faculty can gather at all hours of the day and evening for both work and play.”

Until that day, projected for the spring of 2009, the decommissioned Sumner Smith Rink, located south of the gym, will serve as the Academy’s interim dining hall. Renovations of Smith Rink (which students have nicknamed “UnCommons”) began last summer and include two large modular kitchens and seating for nearly 600. The inclusion of special lighting fixtures and AV capabilities also make the space suitable for special events.

A custom mobile food van, the “Ryley Roller,” will park across from the Andover Inn to provide a light breakfast for students on the go, as well as late afternoon and evening snacks. In an effort to afford students addition social meeting space while Commons is closed, the Academy has refurnished two additional spaces on campus—the Underwood Room and the Adrian C. Israel Student Lounge in George Washington Hall.

Funding for Commons renovations began with a $10 million lead gift from David S. Paresky ’56 and his wife, Linda, in honor of Paresky’s 50th Reunion. An additional $4 million has been raised to date, including a gift of $2 million from Charter Trustee Thomas C. Israel ’62 and an anonymous parent pledge of $1 million.

Architects for both the Commons renovation and the revamping of the ice rink for UnCommons are Schwartz/Silver Architects Inc. of Boston. Ricca Newmark Design has developed and will oversee redesign of the food preparation and service areas. (Click here to view a gallery of architectural renderings and drawings of Commons.)

Over the past several weeks, preparations have been underway for the January 3, 2008, construction start date. Exterior areas have been fenced and reinforced to support construction equipment and materials, furniture and fixtures are being removed from the interior, and the dismantling of the oak paneling has begun. Commons’ last meal will be served on Friday, December 14.