Florida Epsilon’s journey to secure a new chapter home proves the truth of the old adage, “Location is everything.” On the advice of university officials, SigEp’s chapter at Florida State sold its home near the main campus during the early 2000s and purchased land in an area where the university was planning a community for fraternities. Although the idea of creating a Greek-centered community seemed appealing, the location — 2.5 miles from campus — turned out not to be.
With members housed in dorms in the new community, the alumni and volunteer corporation (AVC) began work on a capital campaign to raise funds for construction. But before any significant progress was made, a new challenge emerged. Cultural issues resulted in the chapter losing university recognition. Once the chapter returned in 2012, the AVC rented a home near the site of its planned facility and continued work on the campaign.
But some alumni began to express concern that spending less time on campus could result in brothers missing out on vital educational and social opportunities. Furthermore, alumni weren’t too excited by the idea that when they visited campus, there would be no SigEp house where they could gather to reminisce and get acquainted with current chapter members.
“After a few years there, we realized how difficult it was to connect to our alumni with the chapter being off campus. Thus, it was a challenge to raise funds for a permanent house in that location,” said AVC President Rob Atkisson, Florida State ’93.
The campaign stalled as enthusiasm among alumni waned. In 2014, the AVC began to look for a new site on which to build.
Things began to look up in 2016 when the AVC found a plot of land in an up-and-coming area near campus known as College Town. Excitement about building a new home there reinvigorated the AVC’s fundraising efforts. So far, the fundraising committee, led by Tom Bell, ’76, has raised $800,000 toward its $1 million goal, with 114 alumni contributing to the effort. The AVC broke ground in the summer of 2019 after working with SigEp National Housing to purchase the property and secure a $3.5 million construction loan.
Florida State alumni and volunteers were rewarded for their perseverance when the chapter home was completed in time for brothers to move into in the fall of 2020. Given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, volunteers had a plan in place for the residents’ safety from day one. The home is professionally cleaned weekly, and the 30 brothers and resident scholar who live in the house follow a daily cleaning schedule to sanitize common areas. In addition, hand sanitizing stations and masks are located at the entrances, along with posted mask recommendations.
Inside, the 12,900-square-foot home features elements that will support the chapter’s goal to become accredited as a SigEp Learning Community. The house includes three study rooms that can also serve as lounges when brothers have downtime. The multi-purpose chapter room can accommodate 150 brothers. It also functions as a library and can be used as a classroom. The five smart TVs located throughout the house are not just for entertainment. Brothers can also use them to make presentations and conduct virtual meetings.
Other amenities include an alumni room, a key fob entry system for residents and a 24-camera surveillance system. The home also has an underground parking garage with space for 25 vehicles and an elevator for direct entry into the home.
“Our new house has been a magnificent addition to our chapter and has really enhanced brothers’ pride in Florida Epsilon,” stated outgoing chapter President Andres Salas, ’21. He also said it was a great time for the chapter to move into the facility because COVID-19 restrictions would have made getting space for events or meetings on campus difficult.
“Despite COVID-19, our new house has allowed us to host events and meetings safely and effectively. Although much of our programming is virtual, we’ve been able to hold in-person Balanced Man Program activities as well. Our chapter room is large enough that we can have small gatherings of up to 50 people with enough space for everyone to be socially distanced,” Salas added.
Despite the long wait, Florida Epsilon’s new chapter home was completed at just the right moment.