By Emma Kerr, Daily Staff Reporter
Published August 8, 2014
At the Ann Arbor City Council meeting Thursday night, council members approved University fraternity Delta Chi's plans to grow and rebuild on campus after a 2002 recolonization.
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The small fraternity’s current house is located at 1705 Hill St., and though the $2.2 million project to demolish and rebuild it was approved by the city’s planning commission in July, Thursday night Ann Arbor’s city council granted the fraternity a special exception for construction in the two-family, student zoning area, which typically prohibits fraternities or sororities. Allen Lutes, president of Alpha Design Guild, presented the plan to council on behalf of the fraternity.
“Generally the comments of our neighbors were favorable, and we tried very hard to take into consideration the comments of those neighbors to create a project that would be sensitive to their concerns as well as will work and function very well in that neighborhood,” Lutes said.
Their plan for demolition instead of renovation stems from a fear that the current foundation of the house is weak and would not be able to support new development. Their website emphasizes the need for a new house, and continues to encourage new members to join during this transitional time, stating “Don’t rush a fraternity… build one.” The group is still in the process of fundraising to meet the 2.2 million cost.
The project utilizes no city funds and would have otherwise not required city approval, but their location and status as a fraternity as opposed to general student housing made the city’s decision to allow the project to move forward imperative for the organization.
Delta Chi currently contains about 50 members, but the current house has a maximum capacity of 22. The new plan will provide room for at least ten new students. The design team attempted to keep the appearance of the original structure, and emphasized that the overall goal of the new house is not to maximize the number of residents. They created large basement social areas, shielded by a lot of landscaping and surrounded by concrete to limit noise.
“As we went through the design of this project, there were really three overriding factors that we were looking at,” Lutes said. “The first was to preserve the integrity of the site. Secondly we wanted to create a situation where we had a challenging site with a sloping lot and a great deal of mature trees. Trash removal was a big concern for us as well.”
Councilmember Sabra Briere (D-Ward 1) expressed concerns with the location of dumpsters planned for the house.
“One of the concerns I have voiced was that the trucks would have to enter and back up, thus making a lot of noise in the neighborhood,” Briere said.
Despite residents’ concerns, Council unanimously approved the plan, though it did suggest the fraternity make a parks contribution of $3,000, which Delta Chi declined to do on the grounds of having occupied the property since 1947 and having contributed heavily to the community during that time.