Theta Chi to sell house before next academic year


Image Source: Zillow

Built in 1923, the Theta Chi house has been home to Allegheny’s Beta Chi chapter brothers since 1942.

The Theta Chi fraternity house has been listed for sale for $175,000 on Zillow since Dec. 14, 2022. 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 President of the Beta Chi Building Association for Theta Chi Fraternity at Allegheny College Ken Kutzer, ’18, 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 their 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 multiple 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 didn’t 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.

In the summer of 2022, the building association held three general meetings open to all Allegheny Theta Chi alumni interested in the fate of the house. Kutzer said that everyone present was given an equal vote in deciding whether to sell the property. Theta Chi New Member Education Chair and former President Ian Eggert, ’23, said the current Theta Chi brothers were present at the summer meetings, where they gave their input on the decision to the alumni. The brothers did not get to vote in the final decision. Some alumni adamantly felt that the chapter would die if the house were sold. In the end, though, the majority agreed it was time to sell the building and focus on the chapter’s future going forward.

“We’re a little bummed out, of course, because it’s a really old house on this campus and we were all excited to come into it,” Eggert said. “But at the end of the day, it’s probably the best decision to make. It’s a good thing to do because it opens up a lot of options for us. It’s an adjustment period, but everybody seems ready for it.”

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

“We were surprised, given that it’s a fraternity house and it was built not as a standard residence or commercial property,” Kutzer said. “But given its proximity to the campus and the city of Meadville — just being at the crossroads of College Street and North Main — I think that’s just very appealing to some potential buyers.”

Realtor Dennis Zahora said the price for the house is set lower than what may 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, though 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 applicant’s proposed use would (have to) be ‘less injurious or more in conformance with the ordinance than the current fraternity house,’” Zahora said. “It would have to be used for something about what the fraternity house is currently being used as.”

Zahora said, for example, that the building would serve as an excellent boarding house or social service agency but that a restaurant would not be allowed to operate there. Zahora said that as long as the buyer’s appeal to the zoning board is reasonable, the special exemption hearing would not be an arduous process.

The college will not have control over who next occupies the Theta Chi house, but Kutzer said he talked with President Ron Cole, ’87, about the sale in Nov. 2022.

“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.

Stolar said he and the Beta Chi organization have been working together to ensure that the brothers currently living in the house will be easily able to reintegrate into on-campus housing. According to Zahora, no buyer will be able to close on the house before the beginning of May 2023, which ensures that the brothers currently living there can stay until the end of the academic year. Stolar said it is likely the Theta Chi brothers will live in suite-style residences once they move back onto campus.

Kutzer said the contract with Zahora runs through October 2023 — time enough to go beyond the May 2023 sale goal if necessary. They will renew the contract if the house is still on the market, but they are anticipating it will have sold by then.

Although the sale of the Theta Chi house is a dramatic event for the chapter, those involved believe it will lead to a bright future.

“The chapter is not the house — it’s the brothers who are in it,” former Theta Chi President Justin Osborne, ’23, said. “Regardless of whether or not we have the house, everything remains the same. We’re still going to operate with the same kind of passion that we would if we had the house.”

Stolar said the sale of the house would be a good opportunity for the fraternity to evaluate how they want to evolve. Kutzer agreed and is eager to move forward and focus on the future of the chapter at Allegheny.

“I don’t want anyone at Allegheny to think that just because we’re selling the house it means it’s the end of Theta Chi as it is now,” Kutzer said. “It’s not coming to an end. These brothers are very eager to plow into the future and really start a new chapter for the chapter, if you will. This is the biggest transition we’ve had for the fraternity probably for as long as it’s been at Allegheny College, so there are going to be challenges, but there’s also a lot of excitement and hope for what’s going to happen.”

On Jan. 12, 2023, 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 the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house and the sale of the Theta Chi house are not involved with one another.