Greek row coming to UB?

Investment corporation plans to build ‘Greek village’ near campus

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When Dani Weingarten first joined UB’s Alpha Phi sorority, the one thing she felt UB was missing was a Greek row – an area devoted to fraternity and sorority housing. She had visited her friends at other universities who lived in sorority houses located in a Greek row near the campus.

Weingarten may get her wish next fall.

Standard Ascension Tower Group Corp (SAT Corp), an investment corporation, is planning to create a “Greek village” near North Campus for UB’s fraternities and sororities. The $60 million project will involve four phases and the first phase – which includes erecting 30 houses, a community house and entertainment complex – is set to be completed next fall.

Depending on how many organizations move to the Greek row, the housing system will accommodate about 300 people.

Taqua Daniels, chief marketing officer of SAT Corp, said the project is not affiliated with UB in any way and Pamela Stephens-Jackson, assistant director of fraternity and sorority life at UB, said neither she nor the university is involved and that this is a private project.

At the time of publication, the university did not have a comment regarding the project.

Daniels said while SAT Corp would manage the houses, the company is willing to work with UB.

“The university will have the ability to work with our group to help maintain university caveats,” Daniels said in an email.

Many universities have a Greek row – a collection of houses for different Greek organizations located in the same area on and near the campus. The Greek organizations and its alumni, or the university itself, usually owns the homes.

Many UB Greek organizations – both legal and illegal – have homes located throughout the University Heights off South Campus. Student parties in the area, some of which are held by Greek organizations, have led to conflict between students and residents in the area. Daniels said SAT Corp hopes the project will remove Greek life from the Heights.

Weingarten, a sophomore speech and hearing major, said while a project like this will benefit UB sororities and fraternities, those who live near the potential village may not appreciate their new neighbors. Weingarten said it would be a “shock” and could change the dynamic in the neighborhood where the Greek village is built.

Some illegal fraternities are discussing becoming recognized with the university in order to partake in the Greek village.

Larry Jordan, the chief executive officer of SAT Corp, said the company chose UB because it is familiar with the location and the environment of the campus and because most “big schools” have a Greek row.

Jordan, the company itself and “state mutual funds” will fund the project, according to Daniels. In order to be developed, the company first plans to send the project to be bid on by local development contractors and architects.

Although there are two, 2.5-acre sites in Amherst where SAT Corp could develop the village, Jordan said the company wants to build it on the location closest to the North Campus. Daniels said it would be within walking distance of the campus.

Daniels said the project is a set plan, but SAT Corp is currently seeing which organizations “qualify” to move into the location.

“Qualified organizations will historically have a good standing with the UB campus, local community, academically and [national charter],” Daniels said.

The Spectrum obtained SAT Corp’s letter of intent to lease the homes. SAT Corp sent the nonbinding contract to UB Greek organizations in order to determine how many organizations would be interested in the project.

Jordan also presented the project to students in a classroom on campus last month. The Spectrum obtained photographs of the presentation, which included renderings of the potential village as well as prices.

Joshua Grove, Greek liaison for UB’s Inter-Greek Council, said the plan has only been in discussion for about a month and the “location, approval and zoning” have yet to be put into effect.

Weingarten said she thinks bringing a Greek row to UB’s campus will be a good way to increase Greek membership, however more awareness about Greek life should happen before the village is built.

“I think right now Greek life needs to work on expanding and needs to be recognized more on campus before building houses for each organization,” Weingarten said. “I think if it was to happen a few years from now it would be great to have a part of where our students live dedicated to Greek life.”

Once the first phase of the project is completed, roughly five organizations would be able to move into the village according, to Jordan.

SAT Corp would then move on to the remaining three phases, which include town houses for smaller organizations, a solar panel park for sustainability and a chapter monument museum.

Daniels said each organization has the option to design its own house and can choose between a modern or contemporary style. The Greek village will be in a gated community and each house will start at 25,000 square feet.

The houses – which will “be able to sleep up to 30 members” – will have three floors that hold a library, grand dining hall and ballroom. The sorority houses will additionally have powder rooms and a large community closet.

The houses will have a rate comparable to rent for on-campus apartments and SAT Corp plans to accept student financial aid. Daniels said historically, larger and “more established” organizations will have a purchase option from their national charter. Chapters who maintain a 3.5 GPA will be offered a rental and lease discounts.

Ultimately, Daniels said SAT Corp wants the Greek village to bring something new to UB by having a distinct area for the Greek life on campus.

“We believe that this location will be pinnacle to the growth and respect of [the] university and a grand capstone to the New York academia community,” Daniels said. “In general, Greek village adds another dimension to the university, enhancing its image as a major Division-I institution.”

Marlee Tuskes is a news desk editor and can be reached at marlee.tuskes@ubspectrum.com. Follow her on Twitter at @marleetuskes5.