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Progress continues on Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, HPM managing construction

Auburn University’s Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center took another step toward completion with the naming of Birmingham-based HPM as construction manager for the state-of-the-art facility.

HPM joins a project which will result in Auburn University having one of the most unique culinary and hospitality learning environments in the nation. In addition to classrooms and demonstration and food production laboratories, the complex will include a boutique luxury hotel, a restaurant and a food hall.

The desire to achieve AAA Five Diamond status afforded to elite hotels contributed to the selection of HPM as construction manager. HPM previously served as the owner’s representative during the construction of a $35 million AAA Five Diamond Hotel in Houston, Texas.

The Five Diamond designation is granted to less than half of 1% of the 27,000 hotels evaluated on an annual basis. Should Auburn University’s hotel achieve that status, it would be the only such experience for students in the country.

Mike Lanier, president of HPM, believes his company’s blend of experience will help contribute to Auburn University becoming a national leader in culinary science.

“Our previous history in providing project management leadership on other high-profile hospitality and higher education initiatives made this an ideal fit for HPM,” he said in a release from the company. “We are honored to partner with Auburn University on building this one-of-a-kind facility, which serves as a forerunner that will inspire a new breed of food and beverage as well as hospitality-focused learning centers at college campuses across America.”

The project became a reality a little more than three years ago when Auburn Board of Trustees member and Great Southern Wood founder Jimmy Rane donated $12 million toward construction. The center is named in honor of his parents, Tony and Libba Rane.

Renown architectural firm Cooper Carry has performed the design work. With offices in Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C., the firm has designed over 35 new urban and suburban districts across the country. With the site’s downtown Auburn location, the design work required consideration of its urban planning impact.

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Located at the corner of East Thach Avenue and South College Street in downtown Auburn, the 142,000-square-foot complex will provide rare opportunities for students, teachers and guests.

“The potential impact is enormous,” remarked Frank Stitt, owner of the award-winning Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, prior to construction. “The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center is going to be one of the most interesting and exciting culinary education centers in America, if not the world.”

With construction having started earlier this year, Lanier sees his firm adding value to the project in several areas.

“With so many moving parts and a variety of different work cultures, it’s imperative 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,” he stated. “We’re making steady progress on all fronts and look forward to the completion of construction next year.”

Founded in 1997, HPM provides comprehensive guidance to clients on the construction and development process and offers “a one-stop approach to complete program management and owner’s representation.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia