Fraternities rehabbing, rebuilding houses with newest touches on UI campus
CHAMPAIGN – One University of Illinois fraternity that hoped to open this fall in a new building has postponed its move-in until the spring semester.
Pi Kappa Alpha is building a new chapter house at 102 E. Chalmers St., C, to replace the house that served the fraternity for decades.
"We thought we would be able to get the kids in on Aug. 15, but about six weeks ago, we determined with the developer that we were going to miss that date," said Mike Nelsen, the fraternity's housing corporation president.
So although Nelsen now expects the house to be ready Nov. 1, the fraternity has rented alternative housing for the fall semester and plans to move members into the house in January.
Three other fraternities on campus plan to move into renovated or rebuilt houses in time for the fall semester. Descriptions and photos of the Kappa Delta Rho, Alpha Sigma Phi and Alpha Kappa Lambda projects appeared in Sunday's News-Gazette.
The old Pi Kappa Alpha house, built in 1924, had 12,000 square feet, and about 60 students were housed there and in a small duplex nearby called "the annex." Both buildings have been razed.
The new house will have almost 30,000 square feet on four floors and accommodate 73 residents.
"It will no doubt be the biggest and best project in the country for fraternity houses," Nelsen said.
Nelsen said Pi Kappa Alpha considered renovating the old house, but realized it didn't meet the needs of students in terms of safety, comfort or electrical load.
"We compete with apartment buildings," he said. "There are some really nice apartments on campus, and we wanted to offer chapter members at least that kind of accommodation."
The first floor of the new house includes a foyer, study and living room, each equipped with gas fireplaces. Also on the first floor are a kitchen, dining area and "executive rooms" for officers of the house.
Lower-level rooms include a chapter meeting room, a multipurpose room and laundry facilities, as well as some residential quarters.
The second, third and fourth floor also employ designs for "suite-style" living, with three to six people sharing living space but having separate bedrooms.
Pi Kappa Alpha was originally at 301 E. Armory Ave., C, but acquired the fraternity house on Chalmers Street in 1948.
The front of the new house is "reminiscent" of the old house, Nelsen said, and a few items from the old house have been preserved.
The stone crest above the front door of the old house will be used internally, probably above one of the fireplaces, he said. Plus, the oak baluster at the base of the old staircase has been incorporated into the staircase at the new house.
Some historic dining tables from the old house are expected to be used in the multipurpose room, and the fraternity hopes to put a chapter timeline on a basement wall, alongside other fraternity artifacts.
Nelsen said Pi Kappa Alpha considered rebuilding as far back as 2000, but the design chosen then "was not met with a lot of excitement." Nelsen said he became involved in 2004, the fraternity came up with a new design in 2006, and it decided to proceed with construction in the fall of 2008.
Students were moved out of the house, and the fraternity rented another fraternity house for a year. When the house was no longer available, the fraternity rented 19 four-bedroom apartments on campus for members.
Nelsen said the new house is "not going to be a typical fraternity house. ... It's absolutely going to be up to today's standards for electronics, it's going to be fully wireless. ... It's an upgrade from most of the homes the students come from."