New Culinary Center Expected to Serve up Food, Fellowship, and New Development    

By Richard Massey

The new Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts building at Columbus State Community College in Ohio is just about done. The facility, named Mitchell Hall after lead private donor Cameron Mitchell, will increase culinary enrollment and elevate the quality of instruction.

Designed by DesignGroup and built by Gilbane, Mitchell Hall is the first major capital project on the Columbus State campus since 2006. The three-story building will be nestled in a green space, formerly a parking lot and a through street, and will feature a balcony overlooking the nearby Columbus city skyline. Conceived as the front door to campus and the surrounding Discovery District, Mitchell Hall is expected to be a catalyst for further development over the next two decades.   

Chief Designer Mike Bongiorno, a managing director and design principal at DesignGroup, said the project was pure pleasure, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a certain amount of pain. As a Public-Private Partnership, the project had a large cast of stakeholders – Columbus State Community College, the city of Columbus, the state of Ohio, the Columbus Downtown Commission, and private donors that include the American Electric Power Foundation, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Crane Group, and The Columbus Foundation.

“We had to make a lot of people happy along the away,” he said. “There were a lot of eyes on this. A lot of pressure.”

The scale of the project speaks for itself. The new facility replaces a two-kitchen setup located in a basement with an 80,000 square-foot showcase that features 11 teaching kitchens and labs, a restaurant, bakery, culinary theater, conference room and classrooms. The new building is expected to support a doubling of enrollment capacity to 1,500 students.

Bongiorno focuses on impact-driven, mission-driven architecture. His approach to his craft is full throttle, and while he values subject matter expertise – and used it on the Mitchell Hall project – he values innovative thinking – which he also employed for Mitchell Hall – even more. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, he is a cum laude graduate of the prestigious Pratt Institute School of Architecture in New York City. He is managing principal at DesignGroup.

Among the biggest challenges, Bongiorno said, was shoehorning as much program space into the building as possible without making it look institutional. That was achieved, he said, with the Culinary Hub, a central interior feature that ties all the building’s elements together, and makes the facility look big and welcoming. He wants students to enter Mitchell Hall and say to themselves, “Wow, this place is for me.”

With the abundance of cooking facilities, and the need for interactivity and documentation, the building, compared to a standard campus facility, is equipped with a “disproportional” amount of MEP and AV technology.   

Bongiorno, prone to colorful analogies, had this to say about Mitchell Hall: “Just like any good party, everyone should end up in the kitchen. [Mitchell Hall] is going to be the campus’ kitchen.”

Soft openings for Mitchell Hall begin in August.

Features of the 80,000-square-foot, three-floor facility include:

  • Doubling Hospitality and Culinary Arts enrollment capacity to more than 1,500 students.
  • A professionally managed, student-staffed 50-seat sit-down restaurant and bar and 20-person retail café and bakery, both with outdoor seating.
  • A 400-plus seat banquet-capacity conference center with onsite catering and a sweeping balcony overlooking downtown.
  • Onsite farm-to-table food production gardens.
  • A 100-seat culinary theater.
  • $33 million project cost

SOURCE: Columbus State Community College


Richard Massey is managing editor of Zweig Group publications. He can be reached at rmassey@zweiggroup.com.

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