Saturday, February 02, 2008

New Greek Row at NC State

N.C. State plans to rebuild Fraternity Court
Josh Shaffer, Staff Writer

RALEIGH - The square brick hulk known as Pi Kappa Alpha house squats at the end of Fraternity Court, smeared with four decades of men and beer. N.C. State University junior Ben Boger wrenched open the front door and offered this review: "They need to tear this nasty piece of [junk] down."

This spring, the university will do just that.

NCSU will soon start tearing down the aging boxes that line its Greek Court and replace them with a $104 million Greek Village.

It could take 10 years, but when it's finished, NCSU hopes to have a showpiece on its campus to replace the boxy buildings from the 1960s.

An added benefit: Each fraternity or sorority will design, build and own its own house, freeing the university of costly upkeep.

Meanwhile, the plan gives Greeks a chance to boost sagging membership with quality housing as a lure.

"The existing buildings are not attractive," said Tim Luckadoo, associate vice chancellor for student affairs. "It's hard to get students to live there."

Greek fraternities and sororities date back more than a century at NCSU, with membership about 3,000 and active houses now numbering more than 40. Those groups range in size from two members to more than 100.

Some are scattered in private houses off Hillsborough Street, but the majority are clustered between Western Boulevard and Varsity Drive.

NCSU has leased those buildings to Greek groups since 1964 and has spent $8 million renovating them since then.

Still, the Greeks feel neglected.

The front door sticks at Pi Kappa Alpha. Nearly 30 students share four urinals, Boger said, half of which were only recently added. The tile floor is cracked and stained, and the walls are scratched with graffiti from "Catfish" and other brothers from distant decades.

"It's not worth the money we pay to live here," Boger said. "I feel bad for my parents."

Sigma Nu is one of the first slated for demolition, and it will be designed by Raleigh architect and Sigma Nu brother Edmund Gontram.

In Gontram's days at NCSU, Sigma Nu brothers shared a communal shower. But today's incoming freshmen want their own bedrooms and bathrooms, computer labs and study rooms, he said.

The new Sigma Nu will be smaller, housing only 20 students. But space won't be a problem because the N.C. State chapter has dwindled to zero members, and Sigma Nu will want its new house to be full.

"It's a totally different mentality now," Gontram said. "They join fraternities for the lifelong brotherhood and the business contacts down the road. There's no more keg parties."

The land lease program NCSU is using has the university putting up about $30 million of the total cost, the Greeks spending $58 million on construction and infrastructure, and the final $15 million coming through gifts.

They will also pay the university a portion of the cost for water, sewer and other utilities, along with sidewalks, streetlights and streets. They can either pay an up-front cost of roughly $350,000 or pay half up front and the rest over 10 years.

When it's finished, the new Greek Village will have its own band shell and picnic shelters.

When the houses were built, the Greeks lived apart from the main part of NCSU, Luckadoo said. But now the Greek Village will sit between the main campus and Centennial Campus, with a Wolfline bus running through.

This should help ease the longtime perception that NCSU ignores its greeks, Luckadoo said.

At Pi Kappa Alpha, the brothers responded with a thumbs-up.

"Anything," said junior Jared Smith, "would be better than this."
josh.shaffer@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4818