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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy Photo/KSQ ARCHITECTS An architect’s rendering shows plans for a 14,400-square-foot fraternity house at 360 N. Arkansas Ave., across the street from the front lawn of the University of Arkansas’ Old Main in Fayetteville. Sigma Phi Epsilon’s local alumni association plans to begin construction on the building within the next 18 to 24 months.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon plans to tear down a three-story white fraternity house, one of a handful of buildings across Arkansas Avenue from the front lawn of Old Main, and replace it with a larger structure.

Members of Fayetteville's Planning Commission granted the fraternity two variances Tuesday -- one for parking lot configuration and one for green space requirements -- allowing planning for the project to continue in the months ahead.

Commission action

Fayetteville’s Planning Commission met Tuesday and:

• Denied a request by Raising Cane’s to install neon lighting beyond what city code allows at a restaurant being built at 3561 N. College Ave.

• Approved rezoning 2.2 acres at 4195 Persimmon St. where a real estate office is planned.

• Voted to modify plans for a regional park in southwest Fayetteville. Parks and Recreation officials plan to build a 20-foot-wide street with gravel shoulders leading to the park rather than a 31-foot-wide street with curb, gutter and a sidewalk. Alison Jumper, parks planning superintendent, said the change will save about $165,000.

Source: Staff Report

Phillip McKnight, vice president of housing for the Arkansas Alumni Corp. of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said demolition and construction on the project likely won't begin for another 18 to 24 months.

"We're trying to make sure we have all our ducks in a row so, when we do go and start that process, we'll be able to maximize the square footage on the property," McKnight said Tuesday.

According to designs from KSQ Architects, the building, with 14,400 square feet, will be more than triple the size of the current house. The first-floor of the cantilevered building will move closer to Arkansas Avenue and will extend over a parking lot in the back.

"Primarily, (the project) is driven from the need for more common areas, so all of the guys can meet in one space," McKnight said.

As envisioned, the fraternity house will have 12 rooms with enough space for 24 students. The current house has 10 rooms. According to its website, 14 of the chapter's roughly 160 members live in the house.

No members of the public came to speak about the proposal at Tuesday's meeting.

The commission unanimously approved Sigma Phi Epsilon's variance requests.

"I don't see a real problem with what's being proposed here," Commissioner William Chesser said.

Sigma Phi Epsilon has been involved with Greek life at the University of Arkansas since 1907, making it one of the oldest of the fraternity's roughly 340 chapters nationwide.

A local fraternity house used to be on Stadium Drive, but it has changed locations several times since 1995, when Sigma Phi Epsilon's local charter was suspended in the wake of a complaint from an African-American law professor.

The professor, Carlton Bailey, complained about a 2-foot-tall "Sambo" statue displayed in the lawn of a house at 601 Lindell Ave., according to newspaper accounts at the time.

Residents in the Wilson Park neighborhood protested in 2003 when the fraternity sought to lease three buildings at Maple Street and Wilson Avenue from Glenn Sowder, a former developer and mayoral candidate.

According to Washington County property records, the Arkansas Alumni Corp. of Sigma Phi Epsilon purchased the 0.2-acre property at 360 N. Arkansas Ave. for $750,000 in 2008. The fraternity has had a presence in the building since.

NW News on 05/27/2015

Print Headline: UA fraternity plans expansion

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