Sale of land renders Phi Beta Gamma's future uncertain

By James Cullinane
On May 6, 2014
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In late 2012, Golden Goose Properties acquired a 2.6-acre plot on Madbury Road, which currently houses unrecognized fraternity Phi Beta Gamma. Golden Goose Properties has the intention of tearing down the aging house in favor of building modernized and lucrative apartment complexes. 

With PBG's future muddled with uncertainty, newly elected president Chris Reilly -who has been allotted the responsibility of finding a new living space for his brothers - is determined to keep PBG entrenched as part of the UNH community. 

"The relationships formed in fraternities are unlike anything I've ever been a part of," Reilly, a sophomore, said. "[Forming these relationships] would be difficult without a house. So, I'm going to find a house."

In the hopes of finding a new house in the near future, Reilly has collaborated with Golden Goose Properties Manager Fred Kell, who has recommended several possible replacement properties on campus.

"I feel like I'm in constant contact with [Kell]," Reilly said. "We've discussed a lot of properties. We've come close to making a few deals as well, but the puzzle pieces haven't really come together yet."

Due to funding concerns, PBG will not have a home for the 2014-2015 academic year.  

This is partially a result of the fraternity's recent establishment. Because PBG was formed in 2008, it lacks a sizable alumni group to financially support the acquisition of a new property.  

"Alumni have been very generous," Reilly said. "However, it's really just a numbers game. We have fewer alumni than most other fraternities, and these alumni are all relatively young."

With much of Phi Beta Gamma's young alumni concerned with paying off student loans and starting their own families, donating to the fraternity can stretch budgets during a turbulent economic era.

"It's been tough," said Reilly, while working with several other PBG brothers to dismantle the ice rink they had built during the winter. "Even at our most difficult times, though, I know we have the right group of guys to figure this whole thing out."  

Over the course of the past year, representatives from Golden Goose Properties have worked collaboratively with the town of Durham's Planning Board to devise a conclusive blueprint for construction on this plot that will satisfy both parties.

In a letter to the planning board, Eamonn Healy, the chief financial officer at Golden Goose Properties, wrote that the plan's main objectives are transforming a rundown student housing complex, promoting economic development and transitioning students out of residential neighborhoods.

According to public record, the planning board initially felt as though the original development plan was too large and did not provide enough commercial space in order to benefit the local economy.

With the planning board's recommendations in mind, Golden Goose began working on a plan that would, if approved, essentially follow the Pentagon's design plan, but feature several separate buildings and an aesthetically pleasing courtyard.

Likewise, the bulk of the most densely populated apartments would be placed far back from Madbury Road, while potential office space and storefronts would be located along both the Madbury Road border and the Pettee Brook property line. 

By meeting these requests, Golden Goose developers will be able to create a large living space that could potentially house over 450 students.

As he finished removing one of the last remaining wooden blanks that surrounded the fraternity's skating rink, Reilly threw his palms in the air and said, "Whatever [Golden Goose] decides to do, I'm sure it'll be great for Durham, but I doubt they'll have an ice rink."

Considering the pressure Reilly has been under since becoming president, it's rare to see him this relaxed when discussing the future of PBG.  

"It's tough to think that our house will probably just be a hole in the ground at the end of the semester," Reilly said. "But, I know that our brotherhood isn't dependent on a plot of land."

"Wherever we end up, I know that we can replicate this kind of experience," Reilly said, gesturing towards the dead grass that was covered by the fraternity's ice rink during the winter. "With that being said, I hope and pray that we'll end up with a lawn big enough for a rink." 

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