The co-op commonly known as the Joint House stands half-empty. Its is scarred with the reminders of parties past. On a crooked ceiling fan, a single light bulb burns as the building waits for remodeling.
The Jones House – two connected houses occupying 917 and 923 S. Forest Ave. – will undergo repairs over the summer to become central campus’s first co-op for graduate students when it reopens in September.
Travis Jones, president of the Inter-Cooperative Council, which manages campus co-ops, said the building has caused trouble for six or seven years in the form of wild parties, property damage, theft, vacant rooms and what Jones called “illegal transactions.”
Engineering junior Ali Thompson, president of Jones House, said it is known for its rowdy parties with eight bands and eight kegs.
“This has been the place where kids have had their first drink, their first everything,” Thompson said.
Many Jones House residents have been evicted in recent years because of illegal activity, Thompson said. The house can hold 46 people, but currently only 24 people live there. Until recently, squatters inhabited some of the empty rooms.
In 2003, the ICC decided to take action against Jones House.
The council put the house on probation in hopes that the inhabitants would change their behavior. It didn’t seem to work.
The ICC began to discuss plans to renovate the co-op last November and decided to turn the house into a co-op for graduate students at its board meeting on Jan. 14.
Although he acknowledged that the co-op still needs improvement, Thompson said he has done his part to renovate the house and improve its reputation. Thompson said he helped get rid of the squatters, drug users and other undesirable residents.
“My focus was to keep order and get ready for the changes next year,” he said.
The house is being converted into a co-op for graduate students because they are an untapped market for the ICC, Jones said. There are other co-ops for graduate students, but they are all on North Campus.
The change is being made in order to “attract people who won’t drag down the house,” said LSA junior Ben Peters, a Jones House resident.
The ICC will spend $110,000 on the renovation, which will include remodeled bathrooms and new carpet and flooring. Most of the bedrooms will be converted from doubles to singles, Jones said. After the changes, the house will hold 35 people.
The ICC will pay for the renovations with loans and refinancing, Jones said.
It will also be given a new name, which could help it shed its current reputation, he said.
The ICC is considering “Benjamin Franklin House,” “Jenkins House” and “Shiva House,” said Michelle O’Brien, a marketing intern for ICC. The most popular name that has been discussed was “bell hooks House,” named after feminist theorist and author bell hooks, O’Brien said.
While the renovated house will hold primarily graduate students, one third of the building will be reserved for undergraduates
Current Jones House residents will also have seniority when applying for placement in other co-ops around campus.
Although his lease expires April 3, Thompson said he wants to stay in the house after the renovation.
“I’d love to live here in the fall, but I’ll have to see how things go,” Thompson said.
Nick Streicher contributed to this report