Auburn Unveils Cutting-Edge Culinary Hub

By SCN Staff

Making an ambitious entrée into the world of culinary education, a unique new facility at Auburn University is taking hands-on learning to new heights for aspiring chefs and hospitality leaders. The university chose program management firm HPM to serve as the construction manager for the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, a groundbreaking, dual-purpose building that will house a learning environment blended with a luxury boutique hotel, restaurant and food hall.

In this role, HPM is providing project management support for Auburn’s Facilities Management Administration in the ongoing construction of the world-class educational and hospitality facility, drawing on its years of experience leading hotel and higher education projects across the U.S. Designed by Cooper Carry, the fresh facility aims to be ready for students in the fall of 2022.

Located at the corner of East Thach Avenue and South College Street in downtown Auburn, Alabama, the 142,000-square-foot complex will facilitate hands-on, immersive learning experiences for students pursuing careers in hospitality and culinary sciences. Through the addition of classrooms, demonstration and food production laboratories, a brewing science center, and new teaching restaurant on the property, students will be able to train alongside some of the world’s leading chefs and hospitality experts. Those rare opportunities will play an invaluable role in equipping students with vital skills that will help position them as future leaders in the culinary and hospitality industries.

The luxury hotel portion of the project is seeking to achieve the AAA Five Diamond certification, an extremely elusive title that is given to less than half of one percent of the 27,000 hotels evaluated annually. The ability for students to learn in a hands-on culinary facility and work in a Five Diamond hotel is an experience that no other institution in the country currently offers. HPM previously served as the owner’s representative during construction of a $35 million AAA Five Diamond Hotel in Houston, Texas, which has provided the university with unique insight on the high-caliber design and quality execution that is required to achieve the coveted honor.

Since joining the project, HPM has provided value to the university, including scoping out and managing the bidding of a separate utility and enabling works package for the building contractor, which bypassed time-intensive utility relocations and kept the overall project schedule on track. The firm’s dedication to collaborative pre-planning and ability to deploy best practices gleaned from managing other complex projects in higher education and hospitality have enabled project partners to maintain budget efficiency and create additional value for the university.

“Auburn’s Culinary Science Center is a great fit for us because of our extensive resume in providing program management leadership on other high-profile hospitality and higher education initiatives,” said HPM President Ryan Austin. “With so many moving parts involved in a project of this size and scope, it’s crucial to have a seasoned owner’s representative that can quickly create and implement processes to keep things moving while maintaining cost efficiency for the university. We’re honored to partner with Auburn on building this state-of-the-art facility and look forward to its completion.”

Construction on The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center began in April 2020. Auburn alumnus and Board of Trustees member Jimmy Rane helped kickstart the project with a $12 million gift dedicated to the building’s construction. The board later approved naming the facility in honor of his parents, Tony and Libba Rane.

HPM provides comprehensive planning, design and construction-related experiences in order to offer clients a one-stop approach to complete program management and owner’s representation.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of a feature that initially appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of School Construction News.