Filed Under Architecture

Alpha Drive Destroyed

Fraternity Housing Reimagined

Fraternities at Arizona State University are currently housed in the Greek Leadership Village with sororities, but they once lived along Alpha Drive near the stadium. In the early 1960s, when the homes on Alpha Drive were constructed, according to Mark Pry there were a total of “nineteen chapters and colonies with 980 members at Arizona State University.” Of the University’s nineteen chapters and colonies, ten fraternity chapters resided along Alpha Drive for more than thirty years. The last of the houses on Alpha Drive was demolished 2012.. The homes were not taken from the men without reason. Financial struggles, maintenance disputes, and behavioral issues are among the main reasons the homes on Alpha Drive demolished.

From the outset, the fraternities faced financial challenging. According to Mark Pry, “Within two years of the opening of the Alpha Drive houses, some of the fraternities were struggling financially and finding it difficult to make their lease payments in a timely manner.” This struggle to pay rent to the University originated from a variety of circumstances. Collecting rent and dues from the fraternity members was challenging. Additionally, some of the fraternities struggled because they were unable to fill the bed spaces within the houses. According to Mark Pry, “Each fraternity would need from fifty to sixty members living in its house to be able to afford the lease payments; if fewer than fifty members rented rooms in the house—something that happened from time to time—a fraternity could easily find its income lagging behind its expenses.”

Maintenance also presented both a financial and structural issue for the fraternities. Both the fraternities and the University appeared to have believed the other was responsible for maintaining the buildings and grounds. According to an Arizona Republic article titled “10 ASU alumni groups sue regents on fraternity rent”, “In 1983 the ten fraternities at Alpha Drive sued ASU, charging that the university was using their lease payments not for maintenance of the houses but for matters unrelated to the buildings. … The university disputed the claim, arguing that the lease payments were meant to retire the revenue bonds and that maintenance was the responsibility of the fraternities.” The lawsuit quieted down for a few years, but resurfaced when a big expense was encountered. Installing sprinklers in 1998 re-ignited the debate about who was responsible for maintenance. Neither ASU or the fraternities wanted to pay. According to an Arizona Republic article titled “Frats to stay open without sprinklers”, “Installation of the sprinklers on Alpha Drive was delayed for nearly two years as the fraternities and university quarreled over who would pay for the work; eventually the dispute was resolved by the university allowing the fraternities to use their reserve funds to cover the expense.” Large maintenance bills and the lawsuit led to a deeper financial burden, leading to the end of Alpha Drive’s fraternity housing.

Constant fraternity parties, were alcohol was served, created issues between the fraternities and the university. Alcohol became such an issue that, according to Mark Pry, “temporary bans on alcohol consumption at Alpha Drive were instituted in 2006 and 2007.” The men were also linked to sexual assaults and automobile accidents as results of the parties. If the out of control parties pushed the University to confront the aging infrastructure of Alpha Drive, including long-term maintenance issues, the University’s growth also challenged the University to maximize its use of space at the Tempe Campus. And, the prime location of Alpha Drive was surely desirable for the University’s long-term expansion plans.

Images

Building Remains of the Alpha Drive Homes Alpha Drive once housed ten different fraternal organizations. This photo showcases the building remains of the home. Tearing down these homes made was for new construction opportunities, but tore down exquisite mid modern century architecture. Source: https://twitter.com/aepiasu/status/240288537830907904 AEPi Fraternity Twitter  Creator: AEPi Fraternity Date: 2012
Newly Built Alpha Drive Fraternity Houses In 1960, ASU set aside more than ten acres for its fraternity community along Alpha Row. Located between 6th Street (shown at the bottom of the photograph) and University Avenue, the housing was designed by leading mid-century architects, such as William Wesley Peters. Source: Arizona State University Photography Collection, Buildings and Grounds, UP UPC ASUB. Arizona State University Library: University Archives. UP UPC ASUB A355 1960:51 http://www.azarchivesonline.org/xtf/view?docId=ead/asu/up_upc_asub.xml&doc.view=content&brand=default&anchor.id=0;query=Arizona%20State%20University%20Photography%20Collection#3 Creator: Unknown Date: 1960
Aerial View of Alpha Drive Ten fraternities lined Alpha Drive (located at the bottom right of the photograph) beginning in the 1960s. This aerial view shows the size of Alpha Drive to be almost on part with the extent of the campus (at the upper left) more broadly. This suggests the relative importance of fraternity life at the University. Source: Arizona State University Photography Collection, Buildings and Grounds, UP UPC ASUB. Arizona State University Library: University Archives. UP UPC ASUB A355 1960:52 http://www.azarchivesonline.org/xtf/view?docId=ead/asu/up_upc_asub.xml&doc.view=content&brand=default&anchor.id=0;query=Arizona%20State%20University%20Photography%20Collection3 Creator: Unknown Date: 1960
Alpha Drive After Years of Communal Living ASU’s fraternity housing received fence and wall paintings from its residents. Pictured on the bottom left are the letters of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, a fraternal organization on the ASU campus. Source: Savanah Yaghaezian, The State Press http://www.statepress.com/article/2016/11/sp-magazine-asu-plans-to-add-more-greek-life-housing Creator: Unknown Date: 2016
Overview of the Greek Leadership Village This aerial photo showcases the housing units and the community center (featured on the bottom right) that is now known as the Greek Leadership Village. The Greek Leadership Village, also known as the GLV, houses 27 fraternity and sorority organizations. Source: DWL Architects https://www.dwlarchitects.com/projects/asu-greek-leadership-village/ Creator: Unknown

Location

Metadata

Sophia Bonacorda, “Alpha Drive Destroyed,” Salt River Stories, accessed October 1, 2023, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/361.