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"It's the negotiations and the many points of view — ASU wants one thing, the fraternities want something else — that have slowed things to a crawl," he says. The original Threshold proposal sought to develop the new site in conjunction with the university, but ASU's numerous demands has led to Threshold "assisting," Abraham says, in the development of the privately owned property. The sticking point for ASU appears to be what Abraham calls "alcohol policies," which certainly refers to the university's attempts to place restrictions on the nonstop drinking that is a tradition in frat houses.
Other than that, Abraham insists, no one really cares about the architectural significance of the ASU frats. "With the exception of a very few individuals, no one is worried about keeping what's there," he says. "These are buildings that are 45, 50 years old, built for students who had a different approach to student life than they do today. Gang showers, shared rooms — these were things that were more typical then. But the fraternities want something new, now, and are looking out for their own survival, which is why they've gotten all this started."
But even as the Threshold Project races to its own finish line, Abraham says it won't be much before the fall of 2012 until the construction gets under way. Lockley hopes that this will buy some time for preservationists who want to save the frat houses from extinction.
"It's very much an Arizona tradition to be strangely forgetful about our architectural past," he says. "These buildings are public art, built in a place like no other in the country. Knocking them down wouldn't benefit anyone — not the fraternities, and certainly not our history. If Arizona has a lack of cultural identity here, it's not because we're working hard to maintain it."
Author Ken Lowell thinks ASU's plans to flatten its frats is the beginning of the end of the university's original architecture. "There's another Haver building over there," he says, referring to the Social Sciences building on ASU's Tempe campus. "And it's got a top floor that's been closed for years. Now, when you have an old building by a famous architect at a school that's run by a guy who's Mr. Sustainability, and the building is leaking, you fix it."
He pauses for dramatic effect. "Unless," Lowell finally says, "you were planning to let that building go to hell, so you could tear it down."