Correction appended: A previous version of this article misidentified Jerry Mangona’s title.
A church may soon be transformed into a fraternity house if Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity selects the Tappan Avenue location for its permanent residence.
The Ann Arbor Planning Commission recently granted the fraternity approval to move into the building that is the former Memorial Christian Church — located on Tappan Avenue and near Delta Delta Delta sorority house. But a fraternity representative said there are many aspects to consider, including the building’s structure and community concerns, before a decision is made.
Jerry Mangona, president of Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Michigan Alpha Alumni Board, said the University’s chapter of the fraternity has been looking to establish a permanent residence on campus for close to a decade. Mangona said he has been personally working on the project for eight years.
The fraternity is currently negotiating four contracts at different properties, Mangona said. These include the option to re-sign the lease for the fraternity’s current house on the corner of State Street and Hill Street.
Mangona added that one of the main reasons the church is being considered is that its layout is conducive for a fraternity. However, he said substantial modifications would be needed if Sig Ep chose this location. The chapter would alter the current structure to create spaces for common study areas, a museum for alumni memorabilia and computer labs.
“It’s not a perfect fit by any means,” Mangona said. “It would involve a considerable amount of construction and adaptive reuse.”
Despite potential renovations, Mangona said the fraternity would attempt to preserve the historic quality of the church, which was built in the late 1800s. In doing so, the exterior of the church would remain intact, he said.
“The church is a beautiful historic building,” Mangona said. “Whatever we do … we would want to maintain the historic integrity and the architectural character of the church.”
He added that the prospect of transforming a church into a fraternity house hasn’t been contested in the community.
“Not only (have) there been no voiced concerns, (but) we’ve taken a proactive measure of contacting some of the leaders in neighboring historic districts, and all of them have been receptive,” Mangona said.
Jane Cooper, president of the House Corporation of Delta Delta Delta, has also been working with Sig Ep to discuss any logistical concerns regarding the potential move to the church. Cooper said the collaborative effort between Sig Ep and Delta Delta Delta has been positive.
“(Sig Ep has) been very good about working with us and being aware of our concerns and (we) are trying to do the same with them,” Cooper said. “We realize that they need a place to live and … there’s already a sorority on the street.”
Among the concerns that are being addressed include noise issues, which Cooper said is a common problem with residences — not just fraternities — that house large groups of people on campus. Cooper added that Sig Ep’s housing group is taking steps to address these issues in its planning stages.
“Certainly their house corporation has been very conscious of that in the way that they’re planning the design of the renovation inside,” Cooper said.
Mangona reiterated the importance of working with Tri Delt throughout the process of deciding whether to relocate to the Memorial Christian Church and resolving any of the sorority’s worries about the move.
“We intend to work with the sorority to find a solution that respects their concerns and doesn’t inconvenience them in any way,” Mangona said. “That’s all going to be a part of our continued deliberation about whether or not we can even go forward.”
Despite any potential apprehensions, Cooper emphasized the positive aspects of Sig Ep establishing a residence at the church.
“They’re a good fraternity,” Cooper said. “They want to be good neighbors, as we do.”
Sean Jackson, vice president of public relations for the University’s Interfraternity Council, wrote in an email last night that the IFC supports Sig Ep in its search for a permanent residence.
“Everyone is always happy for other chapters that are able to establish a more permanent chapter house, as it strengthens and benefits Greek Life on the whole,” Jackson wrote. “Therefore, there are no concerns from the Greek community.”