Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon — the fraternity of former President George W. Bush ’68, as well as Late Nite and Tang — is getting spruced up.
The city’s Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday approved plans to merge the two Lake Place lots owned by a national DKE affiliate, the Ann Arbor, Mich.,-based Rampant Lion Foundation, so that DKE can have one bigger, restored building instead of two in varying degrees of disrepair. But while the fraternity’s expansion plans received a favorable 5–0 vote, meeting attendees interviewed said the approval was not without controversy, as neighbors complained about the antics of the frat, decrying loud parties and public urination.
Even Yale, which has no association with the property, had a say: In a letter sent to the zoning board and signed by, among others, University Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, Yale did not oppose the expansion but expressed concern with the number of fraternities occupying the area. (Yale’s Alpha Delta Phi chapter is also located on Lake Place.)
“We just think the City should carefully consider any action that could designate an area as a fraternity group home zone,” Morand wrote in an e-mail to the News. “Moreover, if the group is and intends to be a good neighbor, they should reach out to neighbors, like the Dixwell neighborhood management team, the Bristol Street block watch in their backyard, and the senior citizen residence behind them.”
DKE’s lawyer, James Segaloff, said the brothers who attended Tuesday’s meeting, including DKE President Jordan Forney ’11, will share with the rest of the fraternity the request to be good neighbors. (Forney declined to comment for this article.)
Segaloff and architect Paul Harris of Westport, Conn.,-based Cole Harris Associates said critics at Tuesday’s meeting had reservations about the fraternity members’ perceived behavior, but not the construction plans for the site.
As Harris’s plan for the DKE site currently stand, one house will be renovated and the other will be demolished. The demolished house will be rebuilt as an addition to the standing house, connected by a porte-cochere. Harris said he hopes the building will be completed by fall semester 2012.
City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg ARC ’75 added in an e-mail that DKE still needs to have its site plan for construction reviewed by the City Plan Commission, which could take place as soon as next month.
DKE currently has 17 bedrooms in its two houses, but with its new mansion, the number of bedrooms will be reduced by four. The new house, set to be worth about $2.5 million, is going to be “state-of-the-art” and “beautiful,” Segaloff said.
Still, all the necessary funds have not yet been raised, Harris said, adding that Rampant Lion and DKE alums will be in charge of raising money for construction. (Rampant Lion officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.)
The building that will stay standing during construction, a masonry building built around 1900, will be brought up to current building codes, Harris added.
One DKE neighbor interviewed Wednesday, Cristina Tello-Trillo GRD ’15, said she is concerned about annoyances during the construction process.
“It is going to make a lot of noise and dust,” she said. “I hate [that] there is going to be a lot of people working here, so I have to take care of my stuff, like my bike.”
But DKE brother and rush chairman Alex Birks ’12 said he is looking forward to renovations.
“The plans look really nice,” he said. “Too bad I won’t be here to enjoy it”
The approval of the DKE renovation follows the eviction of Zeta Psi brothers from their 29 Whalley Ave. house last spring and the recent announcement of plans by Zeta’s national organization, Zeta Psi International, to renovate the building during the year.
DKE’s Yale chapter was founded in 1844.