Johnston Hall, Sabai reopen after renovations

Although renovations in Johnston have reduced bed count, ResLife officials hope they improve overall quality of student life.
A student walks through Sabai's newly-renovated entrance Monday in Johnston Hall. Sabai was closed for the past three semesters for renovations and reopened Aug. 21.

Starting this fall, nearly 300 women will call the recently renovated Johnston Hall, an all-female residence hall, their home.

Renovations in the building began in fall 2012 to revamp the space. New fixtures, flooring, air conditioning systems, study spaces, wireless internet and an exterior entrance to Sabai, Johnston’s in-house dining facility, were added.

Although Johnston underwent a substantial renovation in 1947, it was due for an update, Residential Life Director Frankie Minor said. The university began discussing the most recent renovation informally in 1997. A plan detailing the hall’s specific needs was drafted in 2001.

“It was their time to have renovations done,” Minor said. “It needed upgrading to meet the needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s students.”

The renovations in Johnston aim to improve the quality of student life rather than to increase the number of beds, he said. The number of beds in the hall was reduced from 330 to about 300.

In addition, the construction of Virginia Avenue South housing is expected to add about 331 beds to meet the university’s growing enrollment by 2015.

“It’s about reducing capacity slightly to provide students with the types of facilities that they need,” Minor said.

Mackenzie Patterson, a freshman living in Johnston this year, said the motion-activated, energy-efficient hallway lighting is one of her favorite aspects.

“Everything is brand new, so it’s cool knowing that you’re the only one that’s used anything so far,” she said.

Patterson also said she likes how the new building feels modern while maintaining artifacts from Johnston’s history, such as the old doors that found a new home near the elevators.

Sabai, the Asian-cuisine dining facility located in Johnston, has also received a facelift.

In the past, students had to walk through Johnston’s lobby to enter Sabai, but a new exterior entrance will allow Sabai to operate even when the residence halls are closed.

The upgrades will also add additional seating, private dining areas, booth seating, a new menu and a culinary kitchen that may soon host cooking classes and demonstration nights with the chefs, said Michael Wuest, Campus Dining Services spokesman.

He said the darker wall colors, large columns and dome light fixtures will mark the facility’s transformation into a sleek and warm space.

“You’ll feel like you’re in downtown New York in an upscale Asian restaurant,” Wuest said. “Now when you walk in, you’ll see a really inviting entrance. It has a little attitude and elegance to it.”

He said the updated Southeast Asian-inspired menu will feature recipes from around Asia, including China and Thailand, and will allow for more customization.

New additions will include various types of noodle bowls, wontons, Chinese cuisine and ginger molasses cookies.

“You’ll smell the different flavors and your mouth will water,” Wuest said. “Students can take a moment to get away from the bustle of life (and get) a really great taste of flavors from around the world.”

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