New Phi Tau costs $1.8 million

by Judith Phillips | 10/23/02 5:00am

It isn't very often that the College pays to tear down a decrepit Greek house and replaces it with a brand new one, especially when in the midst of making significant budget cuts. Yet in exchange for 18,000 square feet of land, the College is doing just that for Phi Tau coeducational fraternity.

The College's desire for the land Phi Tau currently occupies is part of a plan to construct Kemeny Hall, slated to house the math department, as well as the Dickey Center, Leslie Humanities Center and the Ethics Institute.

In total, developing the 18,000 square feet being turned over to the College will cost in the vicinity of $2-3 million, while the Kemeny project will cost $30-40 million, according to project manager Bill Kitchell.

About $1.8 million will be spent to demolish the current Phi Tau physical plant and build the new one. The remainder will be go for asbestos removal, constructing utility lines for Kemeny and paving the remaining Phi Tau land.

In light of recent budget cuts, some sources noted that it might seem surprising that the College is willing to spend so large a sum to construct a new fraternity building. But they also said that the Phi Tau move is viewed by the College as an integral part of the Kemeny project, which has been in the works for years.

"We've been very fortunate that the details were worked out over a year ago. It's not clear what would happen if it only started now. They've put a big freeze on a lot of the construction projects," Michael Fromberger '93 said, who works in Computing Sales and Services and led Phi Tau's negotiations with the College.

Fromberger also noted that the fraternity's good standing with the administration further enabled the negotiation.

"We're in a fairly unique position in that we own our property free and clear, we're in good financial footing and we're not in any sort of trouble with the college," he said. "We've had a good relationship with the College over the years."

Although the College initiated the negotiation, Phi Tau to date has offered little objection, Fromberger said.

Citing the house's inadequate foundation and insulation, Fromberger said, "Overall, I think it will be a net positive for the organization."

Fromberger pointed to mandates resulting from the Student Life Initiative as the impetus for Phi Tau's enthusiasm. An audit of Greek houses recommended expensive repairs to Phi Tau's physical structure which, under an agreement worked out between the fraternity and the College, are now fully paid for by Dartmouth.

The final agreement specified that Phi Tau would sell the College 18,000 square feet of their land, on the condition that the College would build a new house for them on the remaining front portion of the land.

But the fraternity will nevertheless incur some costs. Prior to the existence of the original Phi Tau building, there was another building on the Phi Tau land. Although torn down in 1926, the building left asbestos residue. Darmouth and Phi Tau are sharing the cost of the asbestos cleanup.

Construction of the new Phi Tau house, which is being built immediately to the west of the original building, began last spring. The building is expected to be ready for occupancy by Winter term.

According to Kitchell, the new building, which will contain 16 single bedrooms, is similar in size to the original.

As for the Kemeny project, according to architectural designer Jack Wilson, the need for the building stems from the "long- time goal to reunify the math department," previously divided between the Choate House, Bradley Hall and Sudikoff.

The College will use the land primarily for underground heating and water utility lines and will pave over part of the plot in order to enable maintenance and emergency vehicle access to Kemeny, Fromberger said.

Wilson noted that land negotiations between Dartmouth and private landholders are not without precedent. Until the early 1990s, when the College struck a deal with Dragon, the secret society was located on the land now occupied by Berry Library.

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