Western may build Greek village

Shawntaye Hopkins

Boyce sophomore Andy Howell stood on the porch of the Kappa Alpha Order house and stretched his arms wide.

“I love this house and I ain’t ever leaving,” he said.

But the truth is, although Howell is at the KA house everyday, he does not live there.

To him, it’s about the memories, history and tradition.

In the first step to create a Greek village at Western, the Bowling Green City Commission will decide on May 6 whether to designate an area near the Hill into the University District.

The district is an area where student organizations are permitted to build homes.

The proposal could leave Greeks like Howell with a decision of whether they should move.

But the project is still in its infant stages.

The plan

The area under consideration for the village is between Kentucky and Center streets, and sits east of the future Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center.

The proposed plan was designed by Brian Shirley, landscape architect for the the Bowling Green-Warren County Planning Commission. It was designed a year ago to present to Western’s master plan committee.

It consists of 11 two-story, 6,000-10,000 square foot houses arranged in a rectangle around an open lawn, he said.

City Manager Chuck Coates said the city will buy the land from property owners, spending about $2 million under the condition that Western repays them.

Over the next few months, a Chapter 99 study will determine what land the city can purchase for the village, Shirley said.

Chapter 99, a state statute, will allow the city to use eminent domain to clear the area and relocate the people living there.

Shirley said the area consists of mainly vacant houses and property rented by students.

The city does not want to have to use eminent domain but would rather cooperate with owners to purchase property at fair market value, he said.

One fraternity has already committed to move to the area. Sigma Chi fraternity has purchased two acres of land inside the proposed Greek village site that is already in Western’s district, Sigma Chi advisor Randy Bracey said.

Their current home doesn’t meet fire safety regulations, he said.

He said the fraternity house will only take up 10,000 to 12,000 square feet. The Sigma Chi’s bought two acres in order to help promote the Greek village, Bracey said. The fraternity plans to be in their new home by spring 2004.

Bracey said alumni donations contributed heavily to Sigma Chi being able to fund the move.

Why?

Both the city and students could benefit from the Greek village.

Bowling Green gains because it would be able to renovate two areas – the village property and the residential areas the Greeks now reside in, Coates said.

He said city residents are sometimes hesitant to move next door to a fraternity or sorority because noise, parties and people constantly coming and going are bothersome to residents.

President Gary Ransdell called the state of some of Greek houses “deplorable.”

The houses are unsafe fire traps that don’t meet any university codes for safety, he said.

“The university should not expect (Greeks) to have to live in the conditions that they’re living in,” said Ransdell, who was a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity member.

He said he would have been willing to relocate if the SAEs had the money and opportunity to move into a Greek village 32 years ago when he lived in their house.

Problems

There are still some concerns.

Not all Greek organizations will be able to purchase land and a house on their own.

Western’s dilemma is deciding how they will purchase the land so the organizations will only be responsible for the houses.

Ransdell said Western would like to minimize university funding. However, he said it is not realistic to ask Greeks to pay for the land and the house on their own.

Charley Pride, director of student activities, said organizations could possibly obtain money for the houses through fund raising, loans, money currently in the bank and selling their current homes.

Shirley said any student organization could purchase some of the land and have a house built – not just Greeks. However, the university is currently marketing the project to Greeks.

The Greek village idea has come up at least five times in the past ten years, Pride said.

He said problems in the past were finding a site that would work and finding ways to fund the project. Pride also said that this is the first time the city has gotten involved.

But Greek organizations have mixed feelings about whether or not they would want to move into the village.

Rumors have already begun to fly around about restrictions in the Greek village – including the place of alcohol.

Owensboro junior Andrew Keller, a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, said he has heard that Western wants to create a dry Greek village.

Pride would not comment specifically on alcohol issues. He said if Western were to buy the land, it would be leased to Greeks who would be regulated the same way they are now.

Greeks are still subject to some regulation because they are a university organization, he said.

Other universities have been down this road.

At Middle Tennessee State University, eight fraternities moved into a Greek Row, said Eddie Linville, a graduate assistant in the office of Greek Life at MTSU.

He said this was done in an attempt to congregate Greeks and make the campus more attractive.

The eight that are already there were financially able to buy their houses, Linville said.

“It’s just like you live in the dorms … the same rules apply,” he said.

MTSU is a dry campus.

Mixed feelings

Some Greeks, including Howell, aren’t yet sold on the idea.

In November 1998, the KA house went up in flames. A new house in the same location was built and the same KA letters from the old house were placed on the new one.

Howell has heard the story of the house from alumni and never wants to live in a house that lacks the history of the KAs. He plans to move into the house next semester.

But losing their history is just one concern.

Versailles sophomore Rachel Williamson, a member of the Chi Omega sorority at Western, doesn’t think the project will succeed.

“I don’t think its a good idea,” she said. “Guys don’t get along and the cops are just going to live there.”

Several fraternity and sorority members felt the area would constantly be watched by the police.

Barry Pruitt, crime analyst for the Bowling Green Police Department, said it would not be beneficial for officers to spend a lot of time in the area if there were no complaints.

But other Greeks are looking forward to seeing the village become a reality.

Daniel Gammon, a sophomore from Murfreesboro, Tenn. and a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, said he would like to have a newer house, especially for central air conditioning and heating.

Owensboro freshman Vinny Cardi, also a Phi Delt, said the open lawn would make rush easier and be a good place for sports and other recreation.

“I think it would be a more social atmosphere,” he said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]