When students returned to Western Carolina University for the 2017 fall semester, they found their on-campus dining choices had increased dramatically as the old Brown Cafeteria, shuttered in 2010 as a food-service operation, roared back to life as a spacious mountain lodge featuring national brands and multiple serving stations offering complete meals.

Rechristened Brown Hall, the 56-year-old, 30,240-square-foot structure underwent a $22.5 million renovation and expansion project that added another 25,000 square feet. The end result: a modern student dining facility with additional office space for the departments of Residential Living, Campus Services and Student Community Ethics; some flexible swing space to support student activities; and a convenience store.

Culinary highlights of the building include a full-service Starbucks, the first Steak ‘n Shake west of Asheville and a food court with up to eight serving stations, including a smokehouse. Architecturally speaking, Brown Hall includes an exterior fire pit and water feature; a large, two-sided fireplace; wooden ceilings and giant community tables made of reclaimed wood; and an outdoor rooftop terrace offering al fresco dining. The hall boasts a mountain retreat-style dining setting called The Lodge.

Dining operations moved out of the structure in 2010 when Courtyard Dining Hall opened its doors in the central campus area, but the continuous increase in student enrollment since then has created demand for additional food service venues. “Over the years, it fell into disuse, no longer vibrant and central to campus life. But now, Brown Cafeteria has emerged into a building that combines our past with our future, and will once again be an integral part of campus life, to be enjoyed for many years to come by future generations of Catamounts,” said Patricia Kaemmerling ’71, chair of the WCU Board of Trustees.