Steve Harms of Tri-North Builders presented the most recent reconstruction plans for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house, located at 627 N. Lake St., to current fraternity members at a public hearing Thursday.
The proposal includes plans for a 7-story, 24-unit apartment that would house 72 individuals, more than twice as many as the current house.
The property manager, Bill Levy of BMOC, Inc., said the increased occupancy would foster a deeper connection among the brothers and present stronger leaders because rather than the brothers living in the house for only their sophomore and possibly junior years, there would be available space for the upperclassmen to stay through their senior years.
However, current Sigma Alpha Epsilon members raised concerns about constructing a building that so closely resembles other high-rise student apartments and fails to preserve the history of the current building and the tradition of the organization.
Levy said preservation was a priority when he began looking into updating the building approximately five years ago, prompted by a change in a city code, but ultimately he found the foundation of the building would be much more expensive to try to repair so he recommended a complete reconstruction.
A new city zoning code that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014 will require all fraternity and sorority houses have sprinkler systems as a fire safety measure.
Inspectors also discovered excessive water damage in the house and determined the entire house required new plumbing, according to Harms.
Harms said the distinguishing white pillars that support the current house on the lake side will be preserved and re-integrated either on the outside or the inside of the new structure.
The plans will now move on to the Landmarks Commission for review before going to the Plan Commission, which has to approve the designs before Common Council can vote on the final proposal. Harms said the process will ideally be completed by December 2013.
According to Harms, the demolition and construction will take no more than eight months, and he hopes demolition can begin in January 2014, so the building will be ready for residents by the beginning of the fall 2014 semester.