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Business students returning to McGill after the summer break may be forgiven for thinking they took a wrong turn off Sherbrooke Street. The entrance and main floor of the Bronfman Building has been substantially renovated inside and out.
"The goal was to make it look contemporary, professional and businesslike," said Terry Kaluta, building director for the home of McGill's Faculty of Management.
The new look for the entranceway begins outdoors, where a steel and granite canopy now sits in front of the Bronfman. Inside, the floors have been replaced with gray stone, and the walls lines with grooved wood panels. On the east side of the building, a new bistro and outdoor patio open up onto McTavish, allowing more natural light into the space.
Although the nuts and bolts work of renovating the main floor of the building did not begin until earlier this year, the project had been in the works for three years, according to Kaluta.
Management dean Gerald Ross approached Hershel Victor (BComm '44), CEO of Jack Victor Limited, a clothing manufacturer based in Montreal to help fund the project.
At that time, the entrance area of the Bronfman was concrete, painted a cheery shade of beige. With no windows anywhere, the space might kindly be described as "institutional."
"It was one of the most depressing lobbies on campus," said Kaluta bluntly.
"It was dark, dingy; it had no character whatsoever. They had tried to fix it in previous years by putting in a new ceiling, but they decided to paint the underside of the cement fuchsia."
Kaluta explained that there were many different ideas as to how to incorporate the bistro. Initially, it was thought that the bistro would go on the front of the building. The university's architecture committee voiced concern that this would give the Bronfman facade a commercial look.
"They also weren't crazy about the bistro being on Sherbrooke because it then became the domain of downtown rather than that of campus," said Kaluta. Putting it on the McTavish side opened the building towards the rest of campus.
"Talks went back and forth, and the university decided it was worth funding part of the project, and they paid to move the BComm office to the other side of the lobby."
The entire renovation cost $1.5 million, of which $1 million came from Victor.
Bill Pageau of Food Services, is very excited about the new bistro. Not just a cafeteria, it is "an upscale food eatery."
"It's a place where people can eat, and bring the outside in," said Pageau.
The space can seat roughly 75 inside, and a further 80 outside on a terrace facing McTavish Street. The inside seating is café-style, with small tables and a stand-up, eat-and-go counter.
The food provided within is a first not only for McGill, but also for Canada. The bistro will be the first Canadian location of Upper Crust, a British sandwich maker with a commitment to freshness. Bread will be baked on site and customers will be able to buy fresh baguettes on their way home. The sandwiches sold there will never be older than three hours.
In addition, there will be a pizza oven on location, fresh soups and a wide selection of hot and cold beverages.
There remains plenty of food choice in the building as well. In addition to the barbecue behind the Bronfman, the undergraduate lounge in the basement will have a "Protein Palace" that will serve burgers, fries and other fast food. While the upstairs will have Ritazza coffee, downstairs will have fair trade brew.
The overhaul is designed to provide more options for students and staff alike, and better food choices, according to Pageau. He said that the mission statement of Food Services is to serve the university by developing facilities and services dedicated to providing McGill with high-quality foods and services in an environment that fosters a sense of community and enhances student learning.
"We want the quality of food services here to be equal to McGill's academic reputation," said Pageau.
The Bronfman bistro will be open 7:30 am to 10 pm Monday through Friday, 10 am to 8 pm Saturdays. The Protein Palace will be open 10:30 am to 7 pm Monday through Thursday, and 10:30 am to 2 pm on Fridays.