Given increasing interest in the progress and purpose of renovations to the 207 Pittsboro St property, the following FAQ has been developed and will be periodically updated.
Current version January 12, 2020.
- SAANC - St Anthony Association of North Carolina
- BOD - Board of Directors of the St Anthony Association of North Carolina
- The Hall - SAANC-owned property at 207 Pittsboro St, Chapel Hill, NC
- Active Chapter/actives - the Xi Chapter of Delta Psi and its undergraduate members
1) Is the Hall closed?
Not exactly. Planning and activities around renovation began in the spring of 2019. The Hall was not uninhabitable, and has not officially been closed as a residence. There were no actives who wanted to live there and and no signed leases for Fall 2019. Many actives stated that: a) the house was not an attractive place to live b) repairs would result in more people wanting to live there and justify a higher rent c) rental market realities in the area mean that many people must sign leases a year in advance to obtain housing.
The actives have been asked to avoid using parts of the property - but the house itself is still open, and the actives have used it for meals (including the kitchen), parties, rush events and pledge in the fall 2019 semester. SAANC BOD decided since the Hall was already in need of some repairs/renovations, it would be best to try to complete these while the house had no one living in it. Most of the contractors SAANC interviewed expressed how much easier and faster it would be to perform renovations on a house without current residents - i.e. the water could be shut off at any time, etc.
2) Is it true that SAANC is not collecting rent/missing mortgage payments?
This is not true. SAANC still collecting rent on the property, since the actives are still using the house and parking lot. It is the responsibility of the active chapter to pay rent to use the house. . Traditionally, the active chapter treasurer collects rent from residents living in the house to pay most of this rent to SAANC; however, the actives do not have to raise this rent money via house residents. At this time, this rent to SAANC is coming out of active chapter dues.
Some actives and alums have raised concerns that it is not fair for actives to be asked to pay the same rent if not allowed to use the entire house. One consideration of many - is that rent paid for the house is used to pay the mortgage, insurance, etc.
SAANC does not have a large endowment or emergency fund to allow for partial rent payments; any partial payment policy would need to be discussed by the board, motioned, voted upon, and the funding shortfall made up by donations or other means.
Consensus has generally been that partial use of the house is preferable to full closure; but depending on how the renovation project develops, this could change.
BOD members have had numerous discussions on striking a balance between two goals; completing renovations quickly, vs taking a longer time to evaluate multiple bids.
Some members of the BOD were pledges/actives when the house was closed in the early 2000s. They have pointed out that they were still able to rush and be pledged with the house closed; and that with some creativity, the fraternity was able to function, meet, and have events throughout that period.
3) Why is it taking so long to do the renovations? Why is work not started? What has SAANC done so far? What is the current status?
SAANC BOD representatives have interviewed nearly a dozen general contractors in 2019. Full walkthroughs of the property have been done with 4 of these. Full walkthroughs can take hours and sometimes have to be done multiple times with the same subcontractor (they may wish to come back with their subcontractors, with additional equipment ie ladders, after researching certain building codes, etc). .
Some of the contractors declined the work outright either before or after a walkthrough. Some have said they have insufficient expertise to handle renovations on an older property of a "boardinghouse" or "dormitory" type. Several have said that in the current hot Triangle real estate market, doing new construction is FAR more desirable (higher profit, lower probability of finding surprise problems) than any renovation.
SAANC has established a committee, currently headed by Kait Goodnight, to oversee the details of renovation.
As of January 12 2020, SAANC is working with a general contractor for a second opinion quote, and working to make sure everything is in place financially to begin renovations ASAP once the board votes to approve a quote and contract with a General Contractor. The last walkthrough with a general contractor was January 4.
As part of this process the original blueprints of the hall were found and digitized.
4) Why did the furniture get removed and the house cleared - when renovation has not started and no contract has been signed?
The difficulties of finding contractors willing to bid on the work were not well understood at the time the house was cleared. One quote was already in hand and it was thought that work would begin imminently. With the information in the board's possession at the time, clearing the house and removing damaged furniture appeared the best and timely choice.
5) How will the renovation be financed?
SAANC is planning to finance using the bank that currently holds our mortgage, as well as using capital campaign funds. SAANC recently elected a VP of Support (Brother Mark Harrison), a position which has been vacant for many years, to initiate targeted and long-term fundraising campaigns. The Chair of SAANC consolidated and provided to Bro Harrison over 5 years of member and donor data as a basis for this fundraising effort.
Some alums have asked how they can ensure their donation will only be used for renovations and not some other purpose. The mechanism, regulations and details around “directed donations” and other "capital campaign" type efforts need to be discussed and figured out. The next meeting between the Chair and the VP Support is scheduled for Jan 13 and this will be a topic.
6) When will the renovations be completed? Will the house be use-able for Swing Out and/or GC 2021?
Nearly all contractors have given an estimate of 6-8 weeks to perform the work once started. Since the work has not started, it is simply impossible to determine an end date. The frustrations this uncertainty is causing to Swing Out and GC committee are understood by the BOD. Both Swing Out and GC Committee chairs have been asked to develop "Plan B" options if the house is not useable. This is of greater importance to Swing Out than GC given the timelines (Swing Out April 3 2020; GC Jan 2021).
It should be noted that some other chapters of the Fraternity do not have houses at all; yet are and have been able to hold both undergraduate events and graduate events, including hosting GC.
7) Why is the board looking at putting over $100k work into the house? Isn't that money wasted on an older house? Why not instead sell it/build a new house/build a new annex?
There is NO simple or easy solution to the house - every option that has ever been presented comes with its own set of challenges, actions and risks. Every possible option will be a large project that will have to be managed by our all-volunteer organization.
Example: Just sell the property and bank the money.
In some ways this would be the simplest of all solutions. However:
- We would need a real estate agent with experience in properties of this type
- We would need legal advice
- Funds or a revenue stream to pay property taxes and insurance would have to be in place until the house was sold.
- Would the house be open for use while on the market? Any use? Some use? What use? How would restrictions on the use of the house be enforced? Who would keep it clean and staged for potential buyers? If closed, how would the risks of vandalism/squatting be addressed? Are there town regulations on vacant properties to be considered? All of these questions would have to be researched and decided.
- What price would we sell it for? (The land and property was most recently assessed at about $750k)
- What would SAANC do with the resulting funds?
The planned renovations are in large part intended to make the Hall a more desirable place to live and visit; but they are also intended to give "breathing space" for long-term decisions about the property. These decisions can no longer be postponed indefinitely. They need to be addressed and acted upon within the next 2-3 years.
The impact of any long-term decision on the property is enormous and not to be taken lightly or in a vacuum. The renovations will allow time for considered input from alumni, actives, the Board of Directors and the national; for a firm and binding decision to be taken; for a project plan to be developed to execute that decision; and for efforts to start on that decision.
8) I have opinions/ideas/problems with this - how can I be heard?
SAANC BOD call time and conference line numbers will be posted in the St Anthony Hall Facebook group; additionally, you can contact the SAANC secretary to be added to a list of interested non-BOD members who will get meeting information. These meetings are open to all SAANC members and interested parties until such time the meeting moves to closed session.
The annual meeting of SAANC membership is at Swing Out; this meeting is open to all members.
Contact the chair of the renovations committee (Kait Goodnight) or the chair of SAANC, LeAnn Sherman.
9) How can I stay informed?
As well as the two meetings above, status will be periodically posted in this facebook group. SAANC will be working with the VP of Communications, Bro. Matthew Wood, to work out other communications strategies.
10) How can I help?
- Donations always help and are always gratefully received!
- Share your expertise, or contacts, or time. Do you know a reputable architect? A real estate or contracts attorney? Are you one yourself? Do you not have specialized expertise - but have time to help with fundraising efforts, general errand-running, etc?
or contact LeAnn or Kait.
- Stay informed - Attend BOD calls and the annual member meeting, watch this space, read newsletters etc
- Please remember that the BOD is an all-volunteer organization. No BOD member draws salary; and unlike other volunteer organizations, SAANC does not have paid administrative staff to handle details and logistics; nor paid house management staff. All BOD members have career, family, artistic, military, and/or other life obligations in addition to their board service. Your support and help is and will be appreciated!