Central Texas College is one step closer to the goal of remodeling its aging student center.

The college’s board of trustees recently approved a $644,000 contract with a Waco-based contractor to renovate the culinary arts kitchen and dining area in the student center, also referred to as Building 106.

The funds will pay for a complete face-lift in the kitchen and dining room used to host the culinary program’s popular patio cafe. Funds also will go to new state-of-the-art equipment and new plumbing and electrical utilities.

For Chef Ramona Lezo, head of CTC’s culinary arts program, and her students, the renovations are worth every penny.

“It’s wonderful,” said Lezo, as she watched her students working on cakes in one of the new culinary arts labs. “We have so much more room, and these students will have a chance to work in a real-life kitchen environment.”

The completion of the project will mark one of the final phases in the college’s efforts to renovate and remodel the building, originally built in 1968.

“It’s a very old building, but our students and faculty still use it every day,” said Mark Harmsen, the college’s director of facilities management.

Beginning in spring 2012, the college began a number of projects in the two-story, 34,620-square-foot building, including the addition of four new classrooms and two new culinary arts labs.

The college also created a new student lounge, equipped with computer stations, video games and pool tables.

The old student lounge was remodeled and is now the college’s Academic Studio, where students can get tutoring and other academic services. The cost to renovate the building, including $644,000 for the kitchen area, is a little more than $2.3 million, Harmsen said.

Unlike the neighboring Anderson Campus Center, which was built from the bottom up in 2011, Building 106’s age presented several challenges during the remodeling process.

“With an older building, you may run into problems you didn’t know were there as you begin the work. It’s something to have to try and anticipate and plan for,” Harmsen said. “With this building, we had to work within the existing structure and make sure we were able to fix any problems we found.”

An additional challenge was completing the work while still keeping the building open.

Harmsen said the work in the student center was broken into phases so the building could remain open during the long renovation process.

“We have a lot of students and staff that still needed the facility for activities,” he said.

Harmsen estimated work on the newest renovation would be completed by Christmas.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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