Chili’s Grill and Bar, a popular national chain restaurant, will be open for business on the campus of Western Carolina University this fall as the full-service dining establishment is the latest tenant announced for Noble Hall, the mixed-use facility being constructed on the site of structures damaged by fire in 2013.
Operated by Aramark, WCU’s food service partner, the restaurant will be the first Chili’s location in Western North Carolina west of Asheville.
“We have an enthusiastic, energetic team eager to serve guests looking for delicious food and drink in a fun and relaxing setting,” said Scott Lamond, resident district manager for Aramark. “We’re excited to bring Chili’s ‘fresh Tex and fresh Mex’ favorites to students on Western Carolina University’s campus.”
The restaurant, which will represent the latest Chili’s prototype currently in development, will brings more than 50 jobs to the WCU campus, Lamond said. The restaurant will consist of approximately 4,200 square feet and seat more than 120 guests.
The menu will offer a variety of fresh spins on American favorites and will include Tex-Mex classics such as tableside guacamole, white spinach queso, fajitas, hand-crafted burgers and baby back ribs.
Chili’s Grill and Bar is the flagship brand of Dallas-based Brinker International Inc., a recognized leader in casual dining. The restaurant has more than 1,550 locations in 31 countries and two territories. In addition to Chili’s, Brinker owns and operates Maggiano’s Little Italy.
Chili’s joins three previously announced tenants for Noble Hall – a new Bob’s Mini-Mart convenience store, an upgraded Subway sandwich restaurant and a Cullowhee outpost for the Sylva-based Blackrock Outdoor Co. Negotiations are still in progress for the building’s fifth and final establishment, a combined bookstore and coffee shop.
Construction is well underway on the 120,000-square-foot building that will feature a mix of residential units and commercial and dining establishments on the ground floor with student residential spaces on the upper floors. The facility will include a total of about 420 student beds. Work began in spring 2015. The residential portions of the building should be completed in time for the opening of the 2016 fall semester in August, with the dining and retail establishments expected to open later in the fall semester.
The building, consisting of three segments, is named Noble Hall in honor of the Noble Nine, the group of nine trustees from the late 1800s who were instrumental in the development of the school that evolved into WCU.
Noble Hall is rising on the site where a commercial strip formerly stood on Centennial Drive in the heart of the WCU campus. Fire broke out in the morning hours of Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, severely damaging three restaurants on the ground floor of a two-story structure – a Subway sandwich shop, Rolling Stone Burrito, and Mad Batter Bakery and Cafe.
The second story of the building, which had contained apartments until several years ago, was unoccupied. The section of the building that housed Bob’s Mini Mart was not damaged, nor were other nearby commercial properties. No injuries were reported.
The building damaged by the fire was formerly the site of the Townhouse restaurant, a longtime campus landmark and popular gathering place for students, faculty and staff from the late 1940s to the mid-1980s.
The Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund, owner of the property, decided in February 2014 against replacing or repairing the structure after reviewing cost estimates, tax assessments and anticipated insurance settlement proceeds, choosing instead to proceed with demolition of the property followed by private development of a new mixed-use facility on the site.
By Bill Studenc