Ellis Tech students get opportunity to design space for local business

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Danielson - posted Mon., Dec. 9, 2013
Juniors Jacob Desilets and Cody Corey created the design that won the People's Choice Award. Photos by D. Coffey.
Juniors Jacob Desilets and Cody Corey created the design that won the People's Choice Award. Photos by D. Coffey.

When Renee Riley, owner of Riley’s Sandwich and Sweet Shoppe, decided to move her business from Center Street to Main Street in Danielson, she had a brilliant idea. She approached Ellis Tech Architectural Department Chair Marilyn Ackerman. Could Ackerman’s students come up with designs for the new shop?

The space Riley was moving into was bigger, with a different spatial configuration. The electrical, plumbing and heating systems had to be taken into consideration. And she wanted to make the most of her Main Street visibility.

Ackerman thought the project would be an excellent real-life learning experience for her students. It would give them hands-on work and a chance to apply the skills and lessons they were learning in the architectural classes to a concrete space. Ackerman agreed to the project.    

Students started working on the project in October. They got a taste of the regulatory steps they’d need to take. The building inspector, zoning enforcement office and fire marshal generally go through a building before an owner moves in to make sure there are no glaring problems. “We’re concerned there are exit signs, fire extinguishers, that it’s accessible,” said Pat Colburn, Killingly administrative assistant. Colburn pulled the drawings from the archives so students could see the floor plan and its dimensions.

Using Revit, a software program that allows users to design buildings in 3-D, teams of students drew up plans. Ackerman said the students had to learn how to be precise, work in teams, and use what she called state-of-the-art software.

Twelve drawings were submitted and Riley posted her favorites on the walls of her Center Street shop. She invited customers to vote for them. She invited visitors to the shop’s Facebook page to vote as well. Customers cast more than 100 votes.

The top five designs were created by Cody Corey and Jacob Desilets, Rhiannon Sulik, Zak Harakaly and Monet Smith, Nicholas Southwell, Makyle Leavens, and Michael McMerriman, Will Bradely and Chris Heaney, and Joslyn Tellier and Kasey Merrier. On Dec. 3, Riley announced the winning design, the one created by sophomores Jacob Desilets and Cody Corey.

“It came down to the wire,” Riley said. “There were minor differences between the top designs. I loved them all.”

Being chosen doesn’t mean their work is done, however. The Northeast District Department of Health wants to see where the refrigerator will go and where the three-bay and hand-washing sinks are placed. “We have to get tighter measurements,” said Ackerman. Floating walls will come down. Counters need to be built. Plans will be tweaked. But Riley hopes to open her new space in January. 

“I thought it would be great to work with the community,” Ackerman said. She’s a big fan of Main Street, Danielson. Several buildings are designated on the National Register of Historic Places. “Danielson could be the hub of the universe,” she said. “I believe in it that passionately. This was a great project for us.”

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