U considers greek-only housing

The greek community would fund the proposed greek-only apartment complex.

by Neil Munshi

Administrators are considering a new proposal for a 100,000-square-foot, greek-only apartment complex on the 1700 block of University Avenue Southeast.

Because greek housing facilities are in substandard shape, the University is figuring out what it can do to help sustain the system, said Jerry Rinehart, University associate vice provost for student affairs.

“There’s been concern among both the greek community and the University about the safety conditions and livability conditions in some of the greek houses,” he said. “Everyone recogniz(ed) that they were not in as good of shape as we would all like them to be.”

The greek community would fund the proposed complex, Greek Village, and would not

interfere with other development projects the University has, Rinehart said. The Minnesota Greek Alumni Partnership proposed the idea.

“The goal is to work towards the long-term viability of the greek housing system Ö and the question is how we get there,” Rinehart said. “The Greek Village is one of those options.”

According to a written summary outlining the possible project, the “U”-shaped building will house 250 to 300 students.

The document stated the project would cost approximately $30 million, funded through the purchase of bonds and by fees charged to residents of the new complex.

Up to nine fraternities and sororities will be able to house their members in the complex, according to an official statement from the University’s Real Estate Office.

Rinehart, at the request of University President Bob Bruininks, has formed a committee of University administrators to look into the viability of a large, greek-only apartment building, which is still in early stages of discussion, he said.

The committee is researching such projects on campuses across the country to see if one could work at the University, Rinehart said.

Brett Hildreth, vice president for housing for the Minnesota Greek Alumni Partnership, said other campuses have found a lot of success with similar projects.

“From our perspective, there’s a possibility that that could be done on the University campus and, if so, would probably be a very positive contribution,” he said.

Because the proposed site for the project currently holds a University parking lot, Rinehart said, his committee is looking into how a long-term lease of the land will work.

“There might be other things that could go on that property, but right now, the University has so much debt and so many other big projects,” he said. “We’re not in a position to take on any new ones, so if we can facilitate the development of a project without getting financially encumbered, it is a winner for us.”

Amelious Whyte, an associate to Rinehart, said the proposed project is the culmination of concerns and past efforts to sustain the greek housing system.

In the late 1990s, Whyte said, many fraternities were concerned about being able to comply with city housing codes.

“Part of having the greek community strong is making sure they have safe housing for students, so any talk about the Greek Village stems from concerns several years ago about their housing,” he said.

A few years ago, the University offered the greek community two ways it was willing to assist in fixing up the buildings, Whyte said.

The first option involved the University buying the land underneath the fraternity houses and leasing them back to the individual chapters, he said.

The second option gave the University first right of refusal, meaning administrators would have the option to buy the fraternity and sorority land, should they ever sell it, before it was offered to outside parties, Whyte said.

The greeks passed on both options, he said.