When West and East Hall, Webster University’s dormitory buildings, were constructed in 2006, they were built on time and on budget. But to achieve those accomplishments, Webster had to cut the installation of the kitchen in West at the last minute.
“They call that value engineering,” Housing Director John Buck said to the ribbon-cutting ceremony crowd celebrating the official opening of the kitchen on March 26.
Nine years later, the kitchen is finally installed, complete with an oven, stovetop, dishwasher, sink and refrigerator. It was built in the West Hall Multi-Purpose Room in a vacant space built to host the kitchen since West Hall’s inception.
The construction officially was given the go-ahead by the university in August 2014. However, no concrete deadline was set for its official opening. For a while, Residential Housing Association (RHA) had to tell students they did not know when the kitchen would finally open, said RHA Executive Board Member Scott Lunte.
“The struggle has really been being patient as we, as well as the other residents, were kind of impatient,” Lunte said. “It’s been hard trying to address questions we didn’t have answers to at the time.”
Being patient was not the only struggle.
“There were all kinds of complications with the city (of Webster Groves) about what we did and didn’t have,” Buck said. “It was all messy. We got the green-light to build this in August. What month is it now?”
RHA Advisor Anna Dickherber said the university really got behind the project this year.
“If you look at the national trend for colleges and universities across the country, there have been a lot of cutbacks on funding,” Dickherber said. “This year, the university was really able to support us and give us the money.”
Dickherber said RHA has dealt with the struggles through perseverance and communication.
“I’ve been their connection to Dr. Buck,” Dickherber said. “I said to them (RHA) that we’ll get there.”
The date for completion was finally given to RHA in February: the kitchen would officially open on March 26. The RHA decided to hold a ribbon cutting to celebrate the kitchen’s opening. In attendance were various housing staff, students and the Gorlok.
“This has been nine years coming,” Dickherber said. “It’s not just a celebration, but it’s a way to let the residents know that it’s here. We’ve had 40-50 residents come through and see what is going on here.”
Dickherber sees the kitchen as something useful, especially for international students.
“We have a lot of international students who live in these halls,” Dickherber said. “They want to cook, and they want to eat their own foods with their friends.”
According to Buck, a kitchen space can give students a feeling of home.
“People like the students have home-baked goods, and sometimes they want to have mom’s or grandma’s cookies,” Buck said. “That’s something you can’t do with the microwave on the third floor.”
Now, students in West Hall have more options at their disposal.
“You can’t really cook a pizza in that tiny microwave,” West Hall resident Corinne Cain said.
Buck said that, while the kitchen was pushed back, housing did not plan to give up on it.
“It’s important because it’s going to be another opportunity to build community, to build connections, to make memories and to just have fun,” Buck said.