Preserving the Past, Providing For Our Future - April 2019
Brothers of New York Epsilon, family of the brothers, Friends of the house and neighbors,
This last month has marked a historic month for our fraternity. We have officially kicked off a public campaign for the renovation and expansion of our beloved chapter house at 12 Myrtle. Now it has been nearly 3 years since there was an updated posted to our website, but I assure you that the Alumni and Actives, through the LAE Board, Phoenix Task Force, and newly formed Campaign Committee, have been working tirelessly to move our efforts along since we first determined that renovating 12 Myrtle while also expanding the current footprint would be feasible.
To give additional back ground, Since 1951, the New York Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been an important part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Over the decades, our chapter set itself apart from other fraternities on campus by producing men who distinguished themselves as scholars, athletes, and True Gentlemen. Sigma Alpha Epsilon shapes men who are leaders at Rensselaer and in their careers and communities, but it is the common bond of our brotherhood that rings throughout all eras. Built before 1920, our chapter house plays a significant role as a home away from home. Now we must not only address the current needs but prepare for future generations of SAEs
We see three main drivers for updating and expanding here at 12 Myrtle: First, the space itself needs updates to accommodate the future brotherhood. The plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems have all outlived their life expectancies or do not meet the capacities for modern students/brothers. In addition, students going to the library less as they rely on shared common-room type study spaces with high-speed internet that are located in their housing units; this type of space/capability is something that our chapter house lacks. Second, we face significant competition from the Institute, other fraternities, and private apartments as each of those housing options have done significant updates over the last 3 years to their facilities in order to attract and retain students. Finally, after an extensive period of research and due diligence, a committee of Alumni has decided that Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s future best rests in an expanded and renovated chapter house it has known for nearly 60 years in order to look towards the next 60 years rather than going to find a new chapter house elsewhere in Troy
Our investment in our shared Sigma Alpha Epsilon experience will ensure the future success of our chapter. College fraternities continue to play a vital and relevant role in the development of young men. It is more important than ever to provide young college men with a small, group-living environment that offers them a solid foundation for their education and also affords them opportunities for the development of leadership, teamwork, and social skills
We urge your thoughtful consideration of this plan for the chapter house. With your generous support, New York Epsilon will continue to provide an environment that develops and supports outstanding young men with the skills, vision, and confidence to face an ever-changing world. The commitment we make today cannot be underestimated—it will have an amplifying effect on the lives of future Sigma Alpha Epsilons for years to come.
Please see the attached brochure for more information. It provides details on our drivers for this renovation and expansion, our future plans, including potential floor plans and renderings, and ways that you can contribute.
Finally if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please reach out to myself, Don Vanderhoef - LAE Chairman (firstname.lastname@example.org), Tom Morgan - Campaign Lead (email@example.com), or Jerry Witter - LAE Secretary and Campaign Lead (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you for your time and your support
Determining Feasibility - July 2015
Brothers and Friends of our House,
I wanted to provide everyone with another update on the Phoenix Task Force. As mentioned in pervious posts, this team has been working with Architects to create a two fold feasibility study to see if the physical building can support a renovation and/or addition as well as the cost of such projects. We got our first question answered back in February when the architects and their structural engineers said our building was in great shape for any type of project. Now we are nearing the part of the feasibility study where we will be getting a 2-3 options for what an addition would look like. This includes room layouts, elevations, site plans, construction costs and scheduling options.
These addition options were created with lots of input from the entire task force team, other alumni, feedback from newsletter surveys, the architects, neighbors, and current undergraduates. At every step we wanted to ensure that what we would build would enhance the brotherhood and the interactions that define who we are.
I would like to make it clear that this is just a study and that implementation of any renovation is not imminent. The plan is for the housing committee to look at all the data, and make a recommendation to the entire brotherhood, who will then give a vote of confidence in that plan to see if it should move forward. There are a lot of moving parts with this project and our team intends to gather all the data before making a recommendation including financial projections, recruitment patterns, housing trends and construction costs.
There will be a big talk about it during this fall’s alumni weekend. Please try to make it out, as well as read updates here and on the Facebook page to keep informed. This house has been an integral part of our chapter, a symbol of strength, of history and of everlasting brotherhood. Our goal is to make sure it continues to meets the needs of future generation as they make their own path at RPI and in Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
Lucas Rice, 14'
Community Outreach - March 2015
Two weeks ago, a few of the alumni, undergraduates and the architect we hired met with a few neighbors to discuss the possibility of us renovating the house. Talking to other houses on campus who did renovations on their houses recently, we heard that it would be smart to talk to the neighbors sooner rather than later. That way we can show them that they are included in this process and that this will be a project that makes the neighborhood better. We got a warm reception from all the neighbors, who all said that besides an occasional noisy night, we are great neighbors and that they would support whatever we choose to do.
Going forward now, the architect will begin to come up with designs based off of the programming meetings we had in January. There should be done in July or August. The Phoenix committee will review them, and there will be a big discussion at the Fall 2015 Alumni weekend about what we think is the direction to go.
After talking to a few alumni, I want to reiterate that there is no chosen plan yet. I have heard people say “I heard we are knocking it down” or “I heard we are expanding to 50, that's way too much” and so on. There is no one choice yet. We plan to get 3-4 design options from the architect, and any one of those could be the one we go with. It is important that people continue to read updates and attend alumni weekend talks because this is where you will get your say. Remember though, that it is impossible to please everyone, but the team here has been hard at work trying to get together the right data to support this project going forward. As always feel free to contact me with questions.
Lucas Rice, 14'
Determining Our Needs - January 2015
I wanted to give an update on the Phoenix Housing Project. This past weekend (1/31/15), the team, consisting of 12 Alumni, met with the architects to go over programming idea for the renovation. This meeting consisted of a status update, a review of the structural report from the civil engineer, a programming session and planning of our next steps. The most important part was this programming session, where we went through with the architect some of our needs/wants as well as a wish list, for the new house. There architect also brought a layout of our property and cutouts the size of potential additions to see where they might fit well with our land. The outcome of the meeting was a lot of ideas and options that we have. The NYEP team will now work to come up with pros and cons for each and rank them so that the architect can use them to better understand what we are looking for. We plan to talk about these options with all the alumni at this spring’s alumni weekend which will be sometime in April, so if you’re interested in the project and want some input, keep looking out for the exact date and plan to come!
Lucas Rice, 14'
Planning Progress - December 2014
Brothers, Both Alumni and Active,
This is one of many coming updates coming from the Phoenix Committee, the team charges with investigating the future of the Chapter House at 12 Myrtle. This semester has been focused on programming, which included meetings between undergraduates, as well as with the Architect team, to find out all the problems with the house. We have looked at everything from cleaning and the number of beds to parking and study space. Some of these problems can be fixed by construction, like total bed count, some cannot, like cleanliness which mostly stems from a lack of responsibility. Recently, the architects have given us an existing conditions report, which we will use as a baseline to decide what needs to be upgraded in the house. In January, we are planning a big programming session with the architects and alumni board. If anyone is interested in attending this meeting, the board would love to have you come and add your input. They only ask that if you wish to come, that you put time into getting up-to speed on the project by speaking with one of the board members. This is to enhance our meeting with the architects and avoid an repeated questions. If you are interested email Lucas.email@example.com.
Lucas Rice, 14'
Moving Forward - Summer 2014
In the Fall 2013 Alumni Newsletter, I provided an update on the housing situation that New York Epsilon has been facing. In summary, for a number of years, we have had over 70 Active Brothers and only 35 fit in the Chapter House. Having less than 50% of the chapter living in makes it harder to come together as a broth- erhood. The Alumni Housing Board, LAE, is trying to come up with the optimal long-term solution to bring brothers together.
Since then, the alumni board has been moving forward in a timely yet cautious manner. There are many internal questions that must be answered before moving forward. The biggest and most fundamental are what size fraternity do we want to be, what is the purpose of the housing aspect of our fraternity, how many brothers should be housed under one roof, where did this housing “problem” come from, and is it temporary.
Mark Wilson ‘83 and myself have been working with the LAE board to answer these high level questions and to narrow down the “big picture” purpose of the project. As we believe we have begun to understand the “who” and “why” we next look to the “how” - how will we fix the problem. There are many options including renovating, expanding, moving; as well as the flip-side of the equation: to limit bids. While it would be great to stay at 12 Myrtle, all options must be looked at in order for the brotherhood to not just survive the next 60 years, but to prosper.
Looking at the options before us, we have started to find the hurdles that must be overcome for each choice: from dealing with the Troy Planning Board to as- sessing the structural integrity the house, there are many. We are taking steps to understand each problem in order protect our investment and help ensure whatever decision made is the right one.
We also understand that many brothers, current and alumni, have strong feelings about their chapter house. In order to help better understand how the alumni feel, we created a housing survey as part of the last newsletter, but it was very long and we didn’t get the amount of responses we were looking for. As part of moving forward we want to try a smaller, simpler survey. There is a hard copy in this newsletter. Simply cut it off, place it in the prepaid envelope and send it back. For the more tech savvy you can go to this URL ( survey) to fill it out.
This is your chance to “opt-in” to this project; to have a say. While everyone might not know the condition of the house or how its actives feel about it, this sur- vey asks these 2 most important questions: “do you want to help?” and “what general approaches would you support”, because we won’t be able to do this project without the support of many alumni. The roles of a dedicated team to move any project forward and then a large fraction of alumni for financial support when that time comes was reinforced by the recent completion of the major renovation of the Sigma Chi house.
As we move forward there will be many opportunities for alumni to get more information, and to be involved in the process. During the Spring 2014 Alumni weekend (April 11-13) we will host a more in depth discussion to make use of the survey data and meet face to face some new brothers who are interested in helping and bring the concepts forward to the big alumni weekend in the fall (Oct 10-12). We are in the process of setting up an alumni workday in the summer to bring actives and alumni together to network and fix up the house – Think of it as an outward bound experience to strengthen your relation to your past while helping the foundation for future generations of NYEPs. Stay connected by joining the 300+ member “SAE RPI Alumni and Actives” Facebook group, joining the alumni mailing list and updating your contact information during phone-a-thon. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to email me.
Lucas Rice, 14'