A civil and environmental engineering graduate came back to work at Virginia Tech to help refresh the campus for future generations of Hokies.

“Some of the best experiences in my life were on Virginia Tech’s campus,” said Kyle White. “I fell in love with Virginia Tech as a student, and I am passionate about creating memorable places that resonate with both students and alumni.”

A two-phase renovation project on the university’s Blacksburg campus, slated to be completed when students return from spring break in March, will do just that.

The first phase of the project features an interior first-floor renovation of Dietrick Hall, a one-stop shop for many students, especially those living on campus. An award-winning dining facility, coffee shop, fast-food venue, and general store have served students since the building opened in 1970. However, a growing student population has sparked the need for a growing set of dining options.

Additional space will increase the building’s capacity for dining, both in available seating and service capacity. Deet’s Place, a coffee shop on the west end of the building, reopened in September. The fast-food venue DXpress was renovated and opened for use in October. The general store and bookstore space is being transformed into a new dining venue called Express Lane that will open when the entire project is completed in March.

“The most significant change on the interior was the storefront extension out to the edge of the overhang, adding 6,500 square feet of interior space,” said White, supervisory project manager for Virginia Tech capital construction.  

White is part of a team of architects, engineers, and contractors working on this project, many of whom are Virginia Tech alumni. White himself graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

“As a student, I always had an interest in facilities-related work at Virginia Tech,” he said. “Prior to this position, I was a land development design consultant. Land development consulting introduced me to interdisciplinary design team coordination. In my role at Virginia Tech as a construction project manager, I recognize the importance of collaboration with all stakeholders throughout the various project milestones.” 

Among those challenges was maintaining access to D2, the upstairs dining facility, throughout construction. According to Virginia Tech dining services, D2 serves 1,100 students daily so it was vital to university operations for the space to remain open and functional. The upstairs dining area was never closed throughout the project. It even remained open in the summer for orientation and summer camps. Another critical aspect, according to White, was minimizing the time that Deet’s and DXpress were closed throughout the project. Work was coordinated to minimize downtime of both venues during construction. 

The exterior aspect of the project will feature a complete renovation of the Dietrick Hall plaza. In preparation, most of the concrete hardscape in front of the building has been demolished.

“A project goal is to make the plaza a more inviting space by incorporating more landscaping, outdoor dining, and event space,” said White.

Dietrick Hall serves many first-time visitors through orientation and summer camps. White said he wants to make sure a visitor’s first impression of the campus is a welcoming one. 

The new plaza, which will be named the Quillen Spirit Plaza, is intended to be a gathering space for big events such as pep rallies, food truck rodeos, and club performances. It will also have outdoor dining and seating space. The bronze HokieBird statue previously located in the Cassell Coliseum lobby will move to the plaza.

The Quillen Spirit Plaza was made possible by a generous gift from three siblings: Chris Quillen ’98 and his wife, Jennifer; Hunter Quillen Gresham; and Matt Quillen ’06 and his wife, Kelsey. Their parents, Michael Quillen and Sherry Quillen, are also Virginia Tech alumni. 

Rendering of the Quillen Spirit Plaza
A rendering of the Quillen Spirit Plaza.

White is continuing to live out his dream of giving back to the university that gave him so many memories. Like many Hokie alumni, he always desired to return to campus. No matter what event brings alumni back to campus, White hopes the new Dietrick Hall and Quillen Spirit Plaza will be a welcoming gathering space for alumni and students for years to come. 

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