New SigEp house clears first hurdle
Landmarks Commission decides proposed design for fraternity destroyed in 2008 fire fits with neighborhood
University of Wisconsin fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon made further steps toward rebuilding its house that burned down in 2008 when the city’s Landmarks Commission approved its plan to construct a new house Monday.
The commission unanimously decided to advise the city’s Plan Commission that the project would have no adverse effect on the historic landmark characteristics of the Langdon neighborhood. SigEp and its developers will go before the Plan Commission in late May to seek initial approval of the project.
The new house, located at the old 237 Langdon St. location, will include capacity for 36 fraternity members housed in a three-story building with a basement. Jerry Bourquin, the new house’s architect, said the house will focus on maintaining the historic character of the Langdon neighborhood.
Bourquin showed the commission renderings of the new structure, which will include a rustic brick exterior with a stucco corner turret.
The house will also include a basement with a dining room for entertaining and an outdoor backyard patio instead of an automobile parking lot. The side of the house will feature space for bicycle and moped parking.
Bourquin added the new property will block a popular student cut-through point between the back of the currently vacant lot and Langdon Street.
The original Sig Ep house was destroyed by a fire in May 2008 as a result of a discarded cigarette. The property was eventually razed because of the more than $1 million in damage to the house.
Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, said she is excited SigEp will be relocating from its current residence at the Tau Kappa Epsilon house situated at 216 Langdon St..
“I think what they’re proposing is appropriate in design and in scale. I think it’s a very nice design that will enhance the neighborhood,” Maniaci said. “I look forward to seeing it get off the ground.”
Barry Norem, president of the UW SigEp chapter’s Alumni Volunteer Corporation, said the current plan is to finish the house and have fraternity members move in by August 2011. He said he has heard excitement among students for the new facility, which he said has the potential to increase the prominence of SigEp.
Norem said the house will be beneficial to SigEp because it will be specifically tailored to the fraternity, while the house which burned down was a 19th-century design never meant to be a fraternity house.
“There’s a big difference from what we had before,” Norem said.
John Jensen, a member of SigEp’s board of trustees, said the UW chapter has held several informational meetings throughout the last year to settle on plans for the new house.
Members of SigEp leadership said they have spoken with city staff about the project for the last several months, but the meeting before Landmarks was their first presentation before an official city body.