Fairfield College Preparatory School has broken ground for construction of an $8.5 million addition that will house a new cafeteria, space for student organizations, an assembly area and meeting rooms.

The Jesuit-run school for boys launched the construction phase June 18 with a ceremony that included a blessing of the site. The new, one-story student life center will be added to Berchmans Hall and is expected to be completed by August 2015 in time for the 2015-16 academic year, Prep has said.

Prep officials and guests from Fairfield University participated in the groundbreaking.

The addition is the first of a two-phase project that will include the later construction of a student fitness center and stairwell elevator that will join the North Benson Road school's upper and lower campuses, the school said when it announced plans for the project in January.

The new Student Life Center, Prep said, will be a "technology enriched" multi-purpose center and a crossroads for student activities. It will include a 500-seat dining area, assembly area for formal and informal meetings and office space for various student-based programs, such as campus ministry, the diversity program and community service.

Providence, R.I.-based Gilbane Building Co. is the general contractor.