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Greek housing renovations proposed
A project that would renovate the interior and exterior of Greek chapter houses at Southeast Missouri State University will be presented to fraternity and sorority membership for approval during the upcoming semester.
The project, still in its formative stages, envisions 840-square-foot additions to the first-floor lounge space of each of the 10 chapter houses on "Greek Hill" by fall 2014. It also includes alterations to the exterior of the buildings.
Dr. Bruce Skinner, director of the Office of Residence Life at Southeast, said the project would enhance the college experience for members of fraternities and sororities.
"The lounge expansion would result in larger space for meetings, events and socialization," Skinner said. "Renovating the exteriors will remove the institutional feel of the houses and allow for the chapters to express their individual identity and uniqueness."
According to Skinner, the renovations carry an estimated cost of more than $4.6 million and will be 100 percent debt-financed based upon a 30-year bond term. He added that revenue will be generated through two sources: an increase in Greek Hill rental rates starting in fall 2014 and the introduction of "parlor fees" to be paid to the university by residents.
"A rise in the rental rates on Greek Hill will go toward the cost of project," he said. "But what we hope the residents will bear in mind is the future of their chapter houses as opposed to holding onto their money in the short term. It's all about how they want their houses to look."
Based on the project's financial model, the rental rate for the 2014-2015 academic year at Southeast is projected to be $5,150 for a double room and $7,725 for a single. However, for the project to be financially viable, the rate for a double room on Greek Hill will need to be $5,825, a difference of $675. A single room will need to be $8,700, a difference of $975.
"I realize that may cause a certain resistance to the project," Skinner said. "It's bound to be a touchy issue."
Another potentially sensitive issue may be the introduction of parlor fees levied on all Greek Hill residents.
"Right now, we have in mind parlor fees of $150 per person," Skinner said. "But if we present that to the chapters and find that a lower fee may be necessary, that's something we'll take into consideration."
Skinner pointed out that the project ultimately was dependent upon two important factors: approval by a majority of the 10 fraternities and sororities situated on Greek Hill and approval by the Southeast board of regents.
"What we want to do this semester is present the plan to the Greek leadership and later visit the chapters to answer questions," Skinner said. "If they turn it down, the project will be withdrawn. But if they approve it, architects will be asked to present specific cost and construction estimates to the board of regents, who will have to vote their approval, as well."
The chapter houses on Greek Hill were constructed in 1962. They were renovated in 1999 when air conditioning and a fire-alarm system were installed, and existing furniture and carpeting were replaced. Facades at the entrances also were put in place. In 2012, a three-year project for the installation of new bathrooms and laundry-and-kitchen space was completed.
Though the new project is in its earliest phases, communication will be of high importance. Trae Bertrand, local attorney and Pi Kappa Alpha chapter adviser, said he was unaware of the proposed renovations.
"I think Greek housing needs to be improved and I know it costs money," Bertrand said, "but I'd hate to comment until I'm more informed. I'm not aware of any specifics."
A recent step in the university's information campaign was a Jan. 2 letter informing students and alumni about the project posted at seorl.blogspot.com/2013/01/greek-villiage-update-southeast.html.
Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, Mo.