Partial demolition, renovation underway at fraternity house

Partial demolition, renovation underway at fraternity house

CHAMPAIGN — Partial demolition has begun at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at Fourth and Chalmers streets in Champaign.

But the original part of the English Tudor-style house, built in 1908, will be preserved, with a new addition to the west and south replacing portions added in the 1920s and 1960s.

"The plans are to tear down the additions and build a totally new facility behind, and to keep the 100-year portion and restore it," said Todd Salen, treasurer of the fraternity's capital campaign for the rebuild.

"Too many fraternity houses have been turned into glorified apartment houses," Salen said. "We wanted to maintain the integrity of the original structure, so that when you walk in the house, it will feel like the same facility."

Demolition of the additions began Tuesday, and the fraternity hopes to have the whole house finished and ready for occupancy by August 2015, Salen said.

In the meantime, fraternity members who lived in the house must live elsewhere.

"About one-third of them are in one apartment complex, and the rest are scattered," Salen said.

The local chapter of Phi Kappa Psi was chartered in 1904, and the chapter house was built four years later at 911 S. Fourth St., C.

"It was the first house on campus to be built specifically for a fraternity, and it was the first fraternity house on the west side of Fourth Street," Salen said.

The original house was built to accommodate 14 members. The addition made in the 1920s boosted capacity to 45, and the 1960s addition allowed the fraternity to accommodate 75.

But those additions were set a half-level off from the main three-story house, creating seven levels within the house.

A letter to alums last January stated that "living conditions at our house are poor, and it is increasingly difficult to maintain." The same letter noted that the local chapter was the largest Phi Kappa Psi chapter in the U.S. with 151 undergraduates on campus.

The new 24,000-square-foot house is designed to accommodate 71 residents, Salen said. Of the 22,000 square feet above ground, about 18,000 square feet will be new construction and 4,000 square feet will be renovation of original rooms. In designing the house's technology needs, planners considered not only what residents may need in 2015, but also what they'll need a decade later, Salen said.

The city requires a parking place for every four beds, so 18 parking places are planned on the west side of the property, with the new building situated over them.

Salen said many features of the original building, including fireplaces and ceiling beams, will be preserved. The grand staircase will be retained but moved forward, and rooms in the original part of the house will be given "higher-end" treatments and assigned to upperclassmen, he said. There will also be a suite for a resident adviser, an adult who is not a fraternity member.

The overall cost of the project is estimated at $4.5 million, with the fraternity expecting to raise $2.5 million through a capital campaign and finance the rest. So far, the fraternity has raised $2.2 million of the capital campaign's goal, said Salen, a broker with Ramshaw Real Estate in Champaign.

Co-chairs of the capital campaign include: Chris Perry, a partner in the Chicago-based private equity firm CIVC Partners; Bob Dudley, group chief executive for BP; Jon Groesbeck, managing director of Redwood Trust; and Patrick O'Keefe, vice president of Mazer Telecom Advisors.

Architectural work for the new house was done by Gorski Reifsteck Architects, Champaign. Both Stasz Gorski and Charles Reifsteck are on the board of directors of the National Society for the Preservation of Greek Housing, Salen said.

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