Sigma Alpha Epsilon proposed a revised plan for a new seven-story fraternity house that complies with city ordinances at a meeting Thursday, after its previous proposal was rejected this summer.
SAE presented a proposal earlier in the year to replace its current house at 627 Lake St. with a new building. The Zoning Board of Appeals deferred the proposal in August because it had a 53-foot setback from the lake instead of the required 75-foot setback.
According to Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, the project now meets the setback requirements, adding that the change of the plan from a five-story building to a seven-story one was not an issue.
Bill Levy, the property manager, said the goal of the
project is to preserve the fraternity by replacing the deteriorating current
Levy said SAE brought this project forward five years ago and
they hired a company that looks at fraternities to see if the house could be
saved. The company found the current SAE house was beyond repair, he said. The house has numerous issues with water damage and plumbing, and the fraternity needs to
create more rooms in order to house brothers that wish to live there, he added.
Levy said a city ordinance effective Jan. 1, 2014
requires all fraternities and sorority houses to have sprinkler systems
installed and makes reconstruction imperative.
He added he
felt this ordinance was odd as it only affected Greek houses and other old
houses in the area were not required to do the same. He said he believes unfair prejudice exists against fraternity houses, which he has experience dealing with.
“Many people would like to see our houses fail,” Levy said.
Steve Harms, director of pre-construction services for Tri
North LLC, which is involved in the development and the construction of the
project, said the proposal should meet city approval by December. The plan will
be submitted sometime in October.
Harms said the proposal for the new house seeks to preserve
the nature of traditional fraternity houses, which has stood at its location on
Lake Mendota since 1924. The plan uses a brick exterior, and Harms said they
plan on reusing the stone casings of the pillars on the front of the house in
“We’re doing what can we do to keep this fraternity going,
and keep them in the same location,” Harms said.
Harms said the developers are aware that the house is a
contributing building to the National Historic District, and although it is
not a landmark, the developers will still meet with the Landmarks Commission
out of consideration.
Levy said he wants to preserve the fraternity because
it is a positive thing for students. Fraternity members have more of a
say in their house in comparison with other student housing on campus, he said.
“This is a positive thing for all fraternities and
sororities on campus,” Levy said.
Levy said he hopes SAE’s house is pushed through so that
developers will not gain control of the property and then rob fraternity members of
their involvement and possibly make rent more expensive.