The Phi Delta Theta fraternity celebrated its return to The Row Thursday as members and alumni got a first glance at the newly renovated, $4-million house that will be home to almost half of PhiDelt’s active members in the fall.
PhiDelt has been missing from The Row since 2002, when the fraternity was suspended by the university for behavioral issues. In 2005, three alumni petitioned the school to allow the chapter to return, but in the April of that year, as they were planning renovations to the house that was soon to be inhabited again, the building caught fire, calling for far more extensive repairs than had originally been envisioned.
Now, five years and $4 million later, PhiDelt is ready to take back its place on The Row.
“It’s been a long time coming now,” said Michael Spilsbury, who was president of PhiDelt last year. “You can sense it among the chapter how excited people are to finally have house on The Row and finally get to live together.”
The renovations and reconstruction was managed by PhiDelt’s housing corporation, a group of alumni who dealt with securing funds and meeting with the construction company.
Ali Shorooghi, who became a part of PhiDelt when the fraternity returned to USC in 2005 and was involved in the reconstruction as a member of the housing corporation, said the fraternity used a loan from USC as well as an additional private loan to fund the construction. To raise money to pay back the loans, the housing corporation hired the Laurus Group, which specializes in capital campaigns for fraternities and sororities. With the help of the Laurus Group, PhiDelt was able to secure donations from more than 75 people, totaling $1.8 million.
The construction did hit some roadblocks, as the property — which once belonged to the Spanish consulate — is considered an historical property, and as such, renovations had to be approved by the city and other historical groups.
“The windows were a huge issue,” Shorooghi said. “We were putting in these nice, huge windows and they said: ‘No, they need to be like they were in the 1800s.’”
In addition to windows that look like they’re from the 1800s, the house has music practice rooms, 17 double bedrooms, a full kitchen and a large backyard.
Spilsbury described the nearly 100 members and alumni who saw the house at the June 4 opening as “awestruck.”
“I think it looks quite a bit different than when they used to live there,” Spilsbury said of the alumni. “They were just really, really excited.”
The current members are also excited, both for the house’s amenities and to simply have their place back on The Row.
“We’re really excited about it,” said Josh Friedman, public relations director of PhiDelt. “We’ve been able to do a whole lot without a house and this is just going to amplify our efforts and our activities.”
Spilsbury said he is equally excited about the house, which will house approximately half of the fraternity’s current members.
“It’s going to be really, really special for all of us,” Spilsbury said. “It’s been somewhat difficult without a house. It’s going to be a place where everyone can come and be proud and say: ‘This is the PhiDelt house.’ I know everyone’s going to be really, really excited to move in and I think it’ll make this fraternity experience more complete for all of us.”
Friedman said the fraternity has no definite plans for the fall semester, as members intend to spend time getting used to life on The Row, but said members hope to host a large philanthropy concert in the fall.
“We’re just kind of getting into it,” Friedman said. “None of us have ever experienced ever having a frat house so we’re just really easing into it going to see how it goes.”
In the meantime, PhiDelt will welcome visitors to its newly restored residence.
“We really encourage people to come by and to take a look at the house,” Friedman said.