Theta Chi to sell house before next academic year | News

The Theta Chi fraternity house on North Main Street has been listed for sale for $175,000 on Zillow since Dec. 14.

Built in 1923, the house has been home to Allegheny’s Theta Chi brothers — the Beta Chi chapter — since 1942. The highlights of the 5,599-square-foot house include its 22 bedrooms, nine bathrooms, an industrial stove and fire suppression system in the kitchen, and parking for approximately 12 vehicles. According to Ken Kutzer, president of the Beta Chi Building Association for Theta Chi Fraternity at Allegheny College, the decision to put the house up for sale was not easy to make.

“There’s a lot of love for that house,” Kutzer said. “There were a lot of emotions involved in that vote. Nobody was screaming at each other, but I guarantee there were some tears shed.”

Assistant Dean for Student Leadership and Engagement Eric Stolar said Theta Chi is currently the only Greek life organization at Allegheny to own its place of residence; all other Greek life residences are owned and operated by the college, similar to special-interest housing. Because Theta Chi owns its house, it handles its own property maintenance.

Kutzer said there have been ongoing challenges with the house for several years. He cited issues with the water pressure, boiler, electricity and plumbing, among others. Kutzer said it is difficult for him and other members of the Beta Chi Building Association Board of Trustees to manage recurring property maintenance issues while also working full-time jobs.

Additionally, Kutzer said significant property maintenance posed financial difficulties for an organization already experiencing decreasing enrollment; currently, only nine brothers live in the 22-bedroom house. When Kutzer was a student at Allegheny, he was the vice president and president of the Theta Chi chapter during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years, respectively. He said that serious decreases in enrollment were a major concern even then. In 2019, Beta Chi leadership even thought they would be forced to close the chapter due to financial limitations. Kutzer said the organization was able to recover and keep the house open largely due to his predecessor’s leadership.

Kutzer said Theta Chi is not currently in a financial crisis and that there are a variety of historical reasons why enrollment and donations have fluctuated. Kutzer declined to elaborate on further financial details, saying that that information is meant solely for Beta Chi’s members.

Before making the decision to sell, the Beta Chi Building Association considered hosting a capital campaign — essentially a large-scale fundraiser. However, the national Theta Chi organization and the Beta Chi board treasurer advised that raising the necessary money would take too long and that they simply did not have the resources to sustain the Theta Chi house. The combination of recurring property maintenance augmented by larger financial shortcomings due to enrollment and insufficient donations led the Beta Chi Building Association to consider selling the house.

“We want to be there to help (the brothers), not just keep putting out fires,” Kutzer said.

Since it was listed, there have been multiple potential buyers interested in the house.

Realtor Dennis Zahora said the price for the house is set lower than what might be expected because they anticipate that a buyer would have to invest significant funds to renovate the building. Kutzer said there have already been approximately seven showings and one offer from a property investor that was $75,000 below the asking price.

Currently, the house is located within residential zoning lines, although Zahora said it would be possible for a buyer to take an appeal to the local zoning board during a special exemption hearing if they wanted to use the building for a commercial purpose.

The college will not have control over who next occupies the Theta Chi house, but Kutzer said he talked with interim President Ron Cole about the sale in November.

“We essentially have been given the blessing of Ron Cole of, ‘Do whatever you want to do. We’re supporting you, whatever you want to do with the property,’” Kutzer said. “I’m not really sure (who) the school would like to buy the property, but it’s not their decision because we own it. It just depends on who’s willing to pay the price we’re looking for. For us, it doesn’t make a difference one way or another what their intentions are with the property. Once we sell the property, we’ll have way more financial flexibility in terms of investing in the chapter and its future.”

On Jan. 12, Allegheny announced in a campus-wide email that the purchase of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house is in the process of being finalized. The sale of that house and the sale of the Theta Chi house are not involved with each other.

Anna Westbrook serves as news editor of The Campus, Allegheny College’s student-run newspaper.

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