Thursday, November 01, 2007

ASU To Develop Greek Row

ASU, fraternities look to demolish Alpha Drive houses
by Matt Culbertson

An estimated $500 million proposal to demolish and rebuild Alpha Drive is expected to have the support of all eight fraternity property holders within a month, according to University officials and sources close to the project.

The proposal, called the "Threshold Project," is geared toward building an establishment for fraternities, and possibly sororities, said Richard Stanley, senior vice president and University planner.

The facilities would be similar to the current system at the Adelphi Commons, where residence hall policies, such as quiet hours and a ban on alcohol, are in effect, Stanley added.

"This will give (Residence Hall policies) an opportunity to be well-enforced," he said.

Negotiations between Alpha Drive fraternities and ASU have been going on since 2004, Stanley added.

ASU and eight fraternity property holders currently own property on Alpha Drive, but the fraternity property owners are expected to sign under one organization within the next month, said Jeff Abraham, a volunteer for the Alpha Drive fraternities who is leading the redevelopment effort.

The organization would be called the Threshold Limited Liability Corporation and would encompass five of the six fraternities currently on Alpha Drive, Abraham said.

The five fraternities that would be involved are Sigma Nu, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Delta Sigma Phi, and Sigma Chi and Sigma Phi Epsilon. Sigma Pi, located on Alpha Drive, would not have a stake in the Threshold Project.

Phi Sigma Kappa and Pi Kappa Alpha would also be part of the Threshold LLC, but neither are housed on Alpha Drive, Abraham said.

Abraham, a 1975 ASU and Pi Kappa Alpha alum, said he is a volunteer for the project with no financial stake in the proposal. He has been working on the proposal since 2003 with the fraternities on Alpha Drive and first met with ASU President Michael Crow in 2006 to discuss the project.

"I think that ASU would benefit from a strong fraternity and sorority system at the University," Stanley said. The Threshold Project would provide the accommodations necessary to strengthen Greek life at ASU, he added.

"I would say the most optimistic view would be we would do demolition [of Alpha Drive] a year and a half from now with the completion of the first phase a year and a half later," Abraham said.

The Threshold Project would redevelop the "front door to ASU" by making the area look more attractive, said Theresa Nakata, a spokeswoman for the Pierce Company in an e-mail.

The Alpha Drive fraternities chose the Pierce Company as their contractor and representative.Goals for the development include the construction of new housing for ASU fraternities; a hotel and conference center; and retail, restaurant and entertainment venues, Nakata said.

Interfraternity Vice President Davey Breitman said he sees both positives and negatives with the project. "Nobody wants to see a large part of the Greek community's history end up a pile of rubble," Breitman said. "Brothers of our houses from up to 50 years ago lived there, it's a pretty historical landmark."

But the project would make it easier for ASU to enforce rules within the on-campus Greek housing, Breitman added."It would certainly be a great opportunity for many different chapters to both work and live," Breitman said. "(But) there is a large contention of people who oppose the project for various reasons."

Breitman said he was concerned that a lot of the upperclassmen in Alpha Drive would shy away from the "dorm-style living" associated with the project's tentative designs for the rebuilt Alpha Drive.

ASU spokeswoman Leah Hardesty said the University welcomes the project and wants it to succeed."We think it's a great way to build a vibrant community for our Greek Life," Hardesty said.

Business junior Justin Rolnick, an Alpha Drive fraternity member, said he has been involved with the Threshold Project for three years and is opposed to the development. "I want my kids to come down in 20 years and live in the same house I lived in," Rolnick said.

He added that tearing down the fraternity houses would make it harder for fraternity members to connect with alumni."What is a fraternity without a house?" Rolnick said. "Personally, if I came down in ten years and I saw (my fraternity house) torn down, I'd be very angry — I would think twice about donating." Reach the reporter at: mculber@asu.edu.