Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Virginia Tech Expands Greek Housing

Virginia Tech looks to expand Oak Lane on-campus community for Greek organizations

The plan could increase the size of Virginia Tech's on-campus community for fraternities and sororities from 13 buildings to 30.

The first phase of the approved expansion plan for Virginia Tech's Greek housing includes space for five new buildings that could house up to 220 students.

JUSTIN COOK The Roanoke Times

The first phase of the approved expansion plan for Virginia Tech's Greek housing includes space for five new buildings that could house up to 220 students.

Oak Lane Community

Virginia Tech plans to add five new buildings to house fraternities and sororities next to the campus golf course.
View Oak Lane student housing in a larger map
An expansion of Greek housing at Virginia Tech would offer more on-campus living space and could help calm tensions between permanent residents and college students in Blacksburg neighborhoods.

The plan, approved by the Tech's board of visitors last week, would expand the on-campus Oak Lane Community near the Duck Pond from 13 buildings to up to 30 at final buildout.

Currently, Oak Lane accommodates 12 sororities and four fraternities in 13 buildings.

The first phase of the approved expansion plan includes space for five new buildings that could house up to 220 students. The $2 million to $4 million structures could be customized and would be built adjacent to the Tech golf course under a cost-sharing agreement between the university and the organizations.

Construction will be funded through university construction bonds, with the Greek chapters contributing about a third of the total cost as a tax-deductible contribution to the Tech Foundation.

Students living in the new buildings would pay a housing fee similar to those living in newer dorms. Oak Lane is part of the university's student-housing network.

At least three Greek organizations must commit to the project before construction can begin, and a handful have already shown interest.

Sigma Phi Epsilon is moving forward with preliminary plans to build in the new development.

"The alumni board has been working with the university for several years to improve the Greek system at Tech," said Bill Thomas of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

The chapter has about 60 student members, seven of whom live in the group's 100-plus-year-old house on Clay Street in Blacksburg.

Given its age, maintenance costs and design as a single-family home, it has never been ideal as housing for fraternity members. A new, customized building that could house more of the chapter's members could strengthen the organization, Thomas said.

The group has yet to sign a lease with Tech, but is looking at hiring an architect and builder.

"We know this is going to be a win-win for the university and the fraternity and the Greek system as a whole," Thomas said.

Moving fraternity housing out of Blacksburg neighborhoods could also help with another problem: reducing the perennial lifestyle conflicts between students and permanent residents.

Complaints about noise, parties and litter can become a drain on the local police force and town staff that field the complaints, as well as cause tensions between neighbors.

"We are interested in building the strength of the Greek community by having more chapters housed on campus and, in the process, decreasing the number of chapters out in the local communities," Vice President for Student Affairs Ed Spencer wrote in an e-mail.

And town officials are happy, too. Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam applauded the Oak Lane expansion plan.

"For years we have been encouraging the university to build more Greek housing on campus," he said.

Oak Lane was founded in 1983 and expanded in 1990 and 2001. Tech's Greek community comprises 65 nationally affiliated fraternities and sororities.