Arizona State University's $70 million Greek Leadership Village in Tempe aims to be nothing like Animal House.
Construction on the project began earlier this year on five acres at the southeast corner of Terrace and Rural roads, at the site of the old Cholla dormitory, which was razed last year. ASU expects students to begin moving in by the fall 2018.
It's not designed for the rowdier types.
Renderings show the compound of 27 "townhouses" for fraternity and sorority chapters will be more like the area's newer apartment complexes and dormitories. The Village will feature 950 beds and a separate, multimillion-dollar community center featuring a ballroom and meeting spaces.
The Arizona Board of Regents, which earlier approved ASU's agreement to lease the land to American Campus Communities, approved ASU's request to fund the community center last week. (Update: ABOR spokeswoman Sarah Harper later clarified this, explaining that the board only agreed to entertain the idea, and that a vote for approval wouldn't come until June.)
Yet some members of ASU Greek community aren't happy with plans for the new digs.
A Change.org petition launched earlier this year that drew 171 supporters charged that the project wasn't affordable for many of ASU's 4,500 fraternity and sorority members. The petition complained of onerous lease requirements, the lack of upscale amenities students wanted, and a paucity of parking.
Austin Bloom, a Brotherhood and Alumni Chairman of Pi Kappa Alpha, said he started the petition after serving for a time on the Greek Housing Committee. He resigned his position and sent a long letter to the Board of Regents, ACC CEO Bill Bayless, and members of Greek life groups on January 17 explaining his concerns. He started the online petition two days later.
"It's not conducive to the needs of the Greek community," he said of the project.
A freshman who identified himself as a fraternity member outside of the Vista del Sol off-campus student housing complex on Apache Boulevard on Saturday agreed that the concerns of the petition were valid.
"A lot of fraternities aren't supporting it," he said of the project. "It just wasn't what we wanted."
Their preference would have been something more like a traditional fraternity row, he said.
"If you don't own the property, you don't have any rights," he said.
As a concept, a Greek village like the one now rising at Terrace and Rural roads has been in the works for more than a decade.
ASU once had a now-legendary Greek row on campus, designed by top architects and built on Alpha Drive in 1961. But the homes fell into disrepair and were demolished. The last fraternity moved out in 2012.
ASU President Michael Crow, worried about the school's reputation for partying, preferred Greek housing better fitting his concept for a New American University, like Adelphi Commons, home to 12 ASU sororities. The university and the Greek community worked for years to hammer out a deal for a village-type project.
In the meantime, with the fraternities' exodus from campus housing, concern simmered among Tempe residents.
The Arizona Republic called the situation "chaos" in a September 2013 article, citing incidents like the burning injury suffered by a 17-year-old California high-school student at an off-campus party that March. Fraternities claim the problem is overblown.
The Greek Leadership Village marks the first major return of fraternities to on-campus housing since the abandonment of Alpha Drive. Yet most of ASU's Greek community will still reside off-campus, so the Village won't be a panacea for Tempe residents frustrated with frat parties.
Last week, the Phoenix Business Journal, which first reported plans for the project in November, published a list of the largest construction projects in metro Phoenix — Greek Leadership Village was number six. Number five was another ASU project — the $120 million dormitory development for engineering students.
Both projects are being developed by American Campus Communities, using Okland Construction as a general contractor.
ASU released a statement about the project for the Phoenix New Times on Friday, saying:
"The 950-bed housing complex comprised of 27 chapter spaces will also include a Fraternity & Sorority Life Community Center. The Fraternity & Sorority Life Community Center will feature a ballroom, event & meeting room spaces, lounge areas, offices for the governing councils and staff members, and a dining location. The Greek Leadership Village will provide a central gathering space to support chapter programs and initiatives and strengthen the sense of community among the fraternity men and women of ASU."
Several sorority sisters at Adelphi Commons declined comment on the project, saying they didn't know enough about it.
Another woman who identified herself as a sorority member said her sorority "hadn't decided yet" about whether they'd consider moving into the Village. She declined to talk about it further, saying it was up to her sorority's leadership to comment.
Anthony Studnicka, president of the Interfraternity Council, which represents a number of ASU fraternities, responded to e-mailed questions by asking what questions New Times had, then did not respond to a follow-up e-mail.
The project does have the support of others in the Greek community.
Angel Hurtado, a freshman and member of Alpha Kappa Lambda, said he thinks Greek Leadership Village will have great benefits for fraternities like his. Sororities have Adelphi, he said, but fraternities lack an on-campus home.
"For chapter meetings, we have to rent out classrooms," he said, adding that he has fraternity friends who have said they're looking forward to the Greek-oriented housing option.
Michael Scott Nickerson, co-chair of the Greek Housing Committee, told ASU's student-run newspaper, the State Press, in November that "the new buildings will give Greek students a new outlet to express pride for their chapters."
James Rund, senior vice president of educational outreach at ASU, told the paper that the project "was entirely backed by an investor and the school plans to pay back on the loans with the fees students pay to live there."
The State Press also noted that Crow gushed about the project's design and potential benefits during an October editorial board meeting, saying the Village was for a "subset of Greek organizations who want their students to be engaged in a way where they're focused on leadership development."
Bloom claims that at $7,900 per bed, with two people to a room, is not competitive compared with other options for students near ASU. The Village doesn't have a swimming pool, modern workout room, or other amenities many off-campus apartments offer for about the same price, he said.
Many Greek organizations and their members can't afford the Village, he said. Those who do live there would be required to follow rules of a typical dorm, which will place too many limits on the groups, he said.
ASU officials "want to keep to keep their thumb on them," he said.
Worst, according to Bloom, is that Greek organizations may get stuck in long-term leases that require them to keep beds filled with active fraternity or sorority members, and if they can't, there will be "repercussions."
Bloom, who hopes to graduate in May 2018 with a degree in public policy and public service, admitted that ASU slapped him with a code-of-conduct violation recently for failing to state on his college application that he attended the University of Arizona before enrolling at ASU three years ago.
He said an investigation began nine days after he started the Change.org petition. The mistake was an innocent one, he said: He didn't transfer any credits from the UA, so he didn't put the school on his application. He did talk about his UA experience with his academic adviser, and she logged the detail in her notes, he said.
He thinks it may be retaliation for his criticism, he said.
A year's suspension has been delayed pending an appeal now scheduled for June, he said.
Below: A video of architectural renderings showing what the Greek Leadership Village will look like when it opens next year. Plus, a photo of students touring a mock Village room set up by American Campus Communities.
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