What Becomes of an Empty Frat House?

Phi Kappa Sigma was booted off-campus in 2012. Its house has been vacant since then.

In late November 2012, Penn’s Skulls, or Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, moved out of its on-campus house after losing its charter due to a death at one of its parties. Now, the Daily Pennsylvanian reports, the corporation of Skulls alumni that owns the house and the university are finally discussing its future use.

The fraternity wants to come back to campus, the executive director of its international organization told the paper, but won’t start talks with the college until 2015. (The university’s director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life said that Greek organizations often have to wait four to six years before they can “recolonize.”) And PKS likely wouldn’t move back into the house until a few years after that.

In the interim, the house will likely be used for other purposes. It’s currently undergoing renovations, which are probably sorely needed, if the deficient stairway railing that contributed to the death is any indication of the building’s upkeep.

Penn’s executive director of real estate said the university has “discussed potential interest” with the owners in leasing or developing the property.

The article notes that many current Penn buildings were formerly Greek chapter houses, and the university’s modernist high-rise dorms were built on the site of former houses. There is even precedent, it says, for the university temporarily using houses while a Greek chapter is off campus and then moving out once the chapter is ready to move back in.

Photo: Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity house at 3539 Locust Street, built by Bissel & Sinkler in 1911, via University of Pennsylvania University Archives Digital Image Collection.