Herricks High School Café and Commons Completed

New Hyde Park, N.Y. – Serving the Herricks Union Free School District, general contractor Stalco Construction and architect BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers have completed the renovation and expansion of Herricks High School’s cafeteria into a visually dramatic, ultra-flexible, 7,000-square-foot café and commons. The $3.95-million project changed a static, outdated, and inflexible cafeteria into a highly reconfigurable space that meets the evolving needs of 21st-century education.

Herricks High School is a four-year high school with 1,290 students from culturally diverse backgrounds. Students achieve at high levels academically, and participate in meaningful research experiences. They also excel in music, arts, extracurricular activities, and athletics. U.S. News ranks Herricks High School in the top two percent of high schools in America and as number six on Long Island.

Today’s school cafeteria spaces must not only be able to prepare and serve food to large numbers of students, but also must be technologically advanced, capable of supporting a great number of programming types. “School cafeterias must function as ‘social hubs,’ and feature a great deal of common areas for students, facilitating personal contact, collaboration, and social interaction,” says Dr. Fino M. Celano, superintendent of the Herricks Public Schools. “Responding to our district’s functional requirements, BBS Architects and Stalco created the ultimate modern and attractive social hub that not only will serve 500 meals each day, it affords flexibility and features to provide a great venue for presentations, announcements, performances, and other events. The project team made the vision created by the Board of Education and the district’s administration—with input from our students—a reality,” he continued.

“The Stalco team devised the complex phasing and scheduling of this project to accommodate the daily operations of a large school without any significant interruptions,” says Stalco’s Vice President Joseph M. Serpe. “For example, when the team built the kitchen and serving line, the existing systems had to be taken offline. Stalco performed this work during holidays and vacation periods, so as not to disturb the cafeteria’s services. New utility upgrades were installed at this time, along with all-new equipment and infrastructure improvements,” he adds.

The new 5,050-square-foot café and commons area is fitted with a system of glazed folding walls that allows the space to be split into a multitude of configurations, including two large dining areas and a centrally located 300-square-foot “glazed-box” semi-private dining room. The scope of work also included a new 1,650-square-foot kitchen with equipment as well as a serving line, adjacent food preparation areas, office space, storage, and support facilities.

The glazed-wall assemblies, by NanaWall, were placed at entrances and between the two main dining areas. Cheerful blue-framed internal windows overlook the hallway and the yard behind it, allowing natural light into the café space. When not in use as a food-service facility, the entire area serves as a social hub and meeting spot.

Stalco’s Alec Wachtel, superintendent on the project, explains that when the aluminum-and-glass movable walls are all closed, three primary spaces are created. “There are two large dining rooms separated by a wall in the core of the space, and a centrally located 300-square-foot ‘glazed-box’ semi-private dining room or social space,” he states. “The walls create openings to each of the dining rooms. There are a total of five openings with the folding walls. Each is about 13 feet wide, for a total of 65 linear feet,” he continued. The possible configurations provide the school with a great deal of flexibility for creating spaces for various types of events.

The dining areas feature large, round tables and chairs; elevated benches with accompanying high tables and stools along the divider walls, which separate the dining rooms from the serving areas; and benches along the glazed wall of windows by McGrory Glass overlooking the hallway and the yard. The semi-private dining room in the center is equipped with a counter installed along the curved, glazed wall section facing the hallway and high, bar-type tables and chairs. Benches and walls throughout all of the spaces provide abundant charging outlets for students’ personal electronic devices. Natural color wood trims on the benches visually warm up the space, while the black suspended-tile Calla ceilings by Armstrong provide a background for dramatic, oversized, gray and blue circular cloud ceilings of Metalworks Mesh, also by Armstrong, and white pendant lighting fixtures.

The lighting in the space is by Eaton, LightArt, and Metalux.

The floors are Amtico Signature luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) by Mannington Commercial, which feature a wooden plank-like pattern. The team also upgraded portions of the hallway outside of the café, adding new Amtico Signature LVT to match. The wall ceramic tile is by Daltile.

In addition to Stalco and to BBS, which also served as mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineer, the project team included construction manager Park East Construction and structural engineer Reilly Tarantino Engineering.