Greek housing could find home on Grace Street

Some administrators want to know the options that VCU’s Greek fraternities and sororities would like to have in their homes if the university builds houses for them.

“We want the fraternities and sororities to be in on the planning stage,” said Henry G. Rhone, VCU’s vice provost for student affairs. “We asked, ‘If we would do this, what would you like to see in it? What would be some of the features that you would like to have?’ Because we would be heavily dependent on them to make sure that it is always full.”

Thus, fraternity and sorority members can recommend everything from the number of students allowed per unit to the type of space needed for meetings, studies and social events.

Plans for this townhouse-style housing may not be set in stone, but the housing would be much different from the Greek housing on Cary Street where several Greek organizations now rent space. The Greek-row-housing would be situated in the 800 block of Grace Street.

“This is going to be several years in development, so really none of the details have been worked out,” said Reuban Rodriguez, associate vice provost and dean of student affairs. “The construction of the building will be a multimillion dollar project, and then the operations of the building would be hundreds of thousands annually.

“I think it is in the stage where the university would like it to happen, but I think there are several factors that need to be accomplished before we actually get to having a plan to construct the facility.”

Even though Rodriguez acknowledged the Greek’s membership numbers have increased, he said the groups still need more growth before they are ready for special housing.

“There needs to be a critical mass of students in the Greek system because we’re talking about a facility that would house anywhere from 100 to 200 students,” he said.

Since the plan calls for the Grace Street housing to fit into the style of the surrounding neighborhoods, the Greeks would live in townhouses having three or four floors of space.

“What we are envisioning is at least the full block eventually (resembling a ‘Greek Row’) and maybe 200 people depending on how the units are designed,” Rhone said. “There would be no more than four stories trying to maintain the townhouse appearance.”

The cost of the housing eventually would fall on the fraternity and sorority members who live there.

“As is the case now,” Rodriguez said, “even though some chapters have their own house or live in rented apartments together, not all of their members want to live together. That would still probably be the case if we had Greek housing.”

Forrest Morgan, president of Alpha Kappa Lambda social fraternity, said his fraternity does not have a house, which is common for many organizations at VCU.

“You would be surprised how many people wouldn’t want to live there (in a house),” he said.

Rhone said each group will have to determine the number of members who can reside in a house. The cost for each fraternity or sorority would depend on the number of members the units could accommodate.

“After the point that the facility is actually built, typically what happens is each chapter who resides in the house is responsible for the funding that would come from the number of beds they have.”

Paul Jez, VCU’s associate vice president for business services and treasurer finance and administration, affirmed Rhone’s and Rodriguez’ statements concerning costs.

“The funds to pay all of the cost will ultimately come from those that live in the Greek housing.”

Since the housing most likely would be university-owned, Jez said the students would sign a contract similar to the one they must sign to live in the campus dormitories.

As a backup plan, VCU could make the housing multifunctional should the Greek-housing venture not succeed.

“The trend is also to make this housing multifunctional,” Rodriguez said. “If at some point the Greeks were not able to sustain that critical mass after we had reached it – or one chapter was not able to fulfill their obligations – and therefore would not live in the housing, the housing would be constructed so that non-Greek students would be able to utilize it.”

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