OF HOUSES, HOPES, AND HORRORS . .

There is currently considerable interest and effort being directed to address the deteriorating condition of the Eta Iota Chapter House.  This is admirable and necessary in the short term, and as an ongoing process. Our obligations are mandated by our commitment to the Brotherhood as well as a legally binding fiduciary responsibility and the mandates of Title VI, Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes (“Landlord and Tenant”).  It occurs to me however; that at some point it would be in everyone’s best interests to explore a long-term solution.  Long-term solutions are just that.  They do not – and should not – happen rapidly.  They do however have to start somewhere.  Thus, I put these thoughts to paper; to discuss, to tear apart, to laugh at, or such other reactions as deemed appropriate.

 

It’s an oft-used phrase, but true.  With the exception of extensive work in 1989, we have been putting band-aids on a basket case.  The existing House was built in 1960, and has had forty-four years of hard wear with minimal maintenance.  We can continue this practice for some years, but not indefinitely.  Again, long-term plans have to start somewhere.  I do not believe a renovation of the existing House is a viable option, due to the age and ill-maintained condition of the basic structure and the inadequacy of its mechanical systems (heat/air, plumbing, electrical, etc.).  If the existing property is to be used, I believe it would be far more cost-effective to raze the current structure, and start over.  I should hasten to add that I am not an expert in such matters, but I have dealt with several properties over the years and I believe the current state of the House does not lend itself to renovation.  Further, this option would leave us with additional – and substantial – debt without realizing any gain from the existing equity.  In addition, it leaves us in the same location and I’m not sure that is desirable (remember, we’re thinking long-term). 

 

What then, pray tell, is the answer?  I propose we discuss the acquisition of property, and construction of a new Fraternity House. (No, I have not been drinking.) 

 

We have equity in the existing property.  What that equity is I don’t know – that is one of many questions to be answered.  According to the Volusia County Property Appraisers Office, the valuation for tax purposes in 2003 was $418,773.00.  What its value is on the open market will have to be determined, although it should be considerably more than the tax valuation.  That is useable capital for acquisition of new property.  The matter of financing, funding, and debt-service will obviously have to be explored in depth.

 

I propose acquiring a minimum of four to five acres (appx. 174,000 to 218,000 sq. ft.) for the purpose of constructing a two or three story building and an appropriate parking area, and to allow for future expansion and a “buffer” to better accommodate activities at the House.  (Our current House, including living area, paved area, and decked area totals 17,383 sq. ft. This does not include unpaved areas and areas not under roof.) The building might include a first floor devoted to common areas (Chapter room, rec. room, library/study/computer room, kitchen, office, laundry room etc.).  Upper floors would be residences.  Land is available around the community – land that is relatively affordable, properly zoned, and convenient to the University.  There are areas along Clyde Morris Blvd, Williamson Blvd, and US 92 west of I-95 that are examples.

 

We do not exist in a vacuum, and any efforts to acquire property and construct a house will involve various entities and require considerable research.

 

ALUMNI APPROVAL.

If this goes beyond discussion at the House Corporation Officer level, then I recommend seeking feedback from all Alumni for whom we have a point of contact, as well as Active Chapter Brothers.  After all, they (hopefully) will be involved and committed for a long time!

 

VALUATION OF EXISTING PROPERTY.

This will involve research of property tax records, real estate sales records, and direct contact with a real estate professional.  The result of this search will produce a capital gain figure for planning and acquisition of financing.  The alumni of the Eta Iota Chapter will have to become and remain involved in funding and debt-service.

 

COST ESTIMATE OF LAND ACQUISITION.

This will involve utilization of the same records and real estate professional, as well as site exploration.  Once again, the emphasis will be on affordability, location, and zoning.

 

COORDINATION WITH SIGMA CHI NATIONAL.

I am vaguely aware that Sigma Chi offers assistance in House financing.  Clearly, coordination with the National Fraternity is essential, and will probably be beneficial.  Someone with close ties to the National Fraternity should explore these possibilities in depth.

 

COORDINATION WITH E-RAU.

If only as a courtesy, the University should be aware of our endeavors.  Whether there are University policy or legal ramifications regarding the existing House, and/or acquisition of new property I do not know.  In any case, we do not need to alienate the University in this matter.

 

CONSTRUCTION COSTS.

We will need to work with an architect and/or contractor to plan and estimate cost of construction of a new Fraternity House. When dealing with various professionals (real estate, contractor, architect, etc.), it obviously would be advantageous to involve Sigma Chi Alumni.

 

It is probable that land acquisition and new construction will be far more cost effective than major renovation of the existing property.  This is true both in terms of long-term debt and ongoing maintenance costs.  A brand new property is easier to maintain and more cost-effective than an existing, or even renovated, property.  To this end certain covenants must be created and observed by the Active Chapter and the House Corporation.  There are intangible advantages as well.  Ownership of a new, dedicated Fraternity House would undoubtedly enhance our prestige on the E-RAU campus with favorable results to our rush programs. It is even possible that other, more financially stable organizations within the Greek World on campus might emulate our efforts.  I do not expect to see the long-sought “Fraternity Row” in my lifetime, at least not at the instigation of the University.  Maybe we can get the ball rolling. It should be noted that while I am proposing a long-term solution, we cannot ignore the escalating value of real estate in the Daytona Beach area.  Simply stated, while haste would be ill advised, the cost of land is increasing in eastern Volusia County at an astonishing pace.  With the increasing rate of growth in this area, availability of land in areas suitable for our needs is diminishing.

 

I do not know how this proposal will be received.  To be sure, it is ambitious.  I believe – at the very least – it needs to be discussed. I do know that is a long-term project.  I do know that it will require a serious and ongoing commitment from all our Eta Iota Brothers.  I do know that it will require a substantial effort on the part of many.  I firmly believe it can be done.  Some scoffed at Eta Iota’s Founding Fathers when they proposed buying an old motel.  All they did was accomplish precisely that.  I ask that the House Corporation Officers discuss this.  If it goes no further than that, then so be it.  I put forward the idea because I believe it is necessary and I believe that it can be done.

 

 

In Hoc

Walt Sharpe

April 7, 2004

Daytona Beach, FL      

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