Four stately homes with towering white columns line the west side of Prior Street, ready for their tenants to move in this fall.
The four completed sorority houses at Brenau University are nearly complete, with landscaping still underway. Construction on the homes, and an additional residence hall, began last fall as part of a $6.5 million project.
The university is taking advantage of the slower summer traffic to complete a number of construction projects, including Sorority Row, a Sorority Circle green space, a residence hall and the athletic complex.
The sorority houses are a mirror image of each other. They all have a chapter room, parlor room, kitchenette, two laundry rooms and a grand staircase leading to a hall of double bedrooms capable of sleeping 15 sorority sisters and one resident adviser.
Each bedroom sleeps two women, with a single handicap-accessible room on the ground floor, and each bedroom has a private bathroom according to David Barnett, chief financial officer and senior vice president of Brenau.
“The way we have the resident life staff set up is there will be one resident assistant in each of these,” Barnett said. “It’s what used to be house mothers, but we don’t do house mothers anymore.”
Brenau President Ed Schrader said the university financed the construction of the homes, which cost approximately $800,000 each. But they struck an agreement with the sororities to raise funds to pay back at least half the cost.
“Our big carrot is, when they raise and get to the 50 percent level with contributions, we will count that toward a perpetual lease payment,” Schrader said. “Right now, and at most schools it’s this way, sororities live in Greek houses owned by the school, so legally they could be asked to vacate the next day. There’s no long-term binding contract between the sorority and the school.”
Schrader said while there’s no risk of sororities being asked to vacate, they do have to leave the homes in the summer for camps to use. If the sororities can earn enough for the perpetual lease agreement, they could use the home throughout the summer as they desire.
Schrader said behind the houses and adjacent to the back of Pearce Auditorium is currently an existing house, which will be demolished by the end of July, and green space that will be redone once the site is cleared.
The green space will act as a new quad and Sorority Circle, and an existing gazebo in its center, donated years ago by Delta Delta Delta sorority, will be renovated as well to restore its safety and structure.
Across the street from the homes, excavation and site work is underway on the new residence hall, which Schrader said he hopes will be ready for students in the spring.
“If everything works well and we have good weather, by the end of November or beginning of December we expect it to be ready,” he said. “If we have some delays, we certainly don’t expect it to take more than a month. So we’ve got the door scheduled so students in the second semester can move in before school starts (Jan. 10).”
Finally, about a mile and a half away from Brenau’s main campus, construction has begun on the university’s $4.4 million athletic park. Construction is broken into two phases: a softball complex and then the following summer, a soccer and track complex. The first phase of that project is expected to be complete — weather permitting — by August and ready for athletes in October.
“Our timeline on it is still to be playing next year’s softball and games out there,” Schrader said. “Softball is a late-fall, early-spring season, so we’ll start playing on it in late October. ... But we will play on it next year; that is our plan.”