Fraternity looks to turn Troy church into a frat house

Posted at: 02/05/2013 3:25 PM
Updated at: 02/06/2013 12:03 AM
By: WNYT Staff

TROY - A church in downtown Troy may soon be home to a college fraternity.

The proposal by RPI's Phi Gamma Delta Tau Nu Chapter passed an important hurdle Tuesday night when the city's Zoning Board of Appeals gave a thumbs up to the purchase of the First Baptist Church and a nearby school building on Third Street.

Michael Aubent, who owns property directly across the street, thinks it wouldn't be the best usage for the church property.

"A fraternity could use grounds," Aubent says, "A fraternity shouldn't be right up against its neighbors because fraternities can be loud. It's neighbors shouldn't have to deal with loud music. And fraternities have people coming and going at all hours of the night."

Aubent shared his concerns with the ZBA, which is where downtown business owner Jeff Pheil had an opposing point of view.

"Getting some more young people downtown, with eyes and feet on the street and somebody fixing up a great historic building, it's all good," Pheil stated.

That's the way the ZBA saw things too. It approved a variance that will allow Phi Gamma Delta to purchase the 18th century church and convert it into a 50-bed fraternity house.

The precedent to transform religious life into Greek life has already been established in Troy. Two years ago, members of the Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity moved into the old Francis de Sales Church on Congress Street.

There are still ten former churches in Troy that remain empty. Renovating them and converting them for other purposes, like what has already happened at St Francis, and what will happen at St. Patrick's in Watervliet, where a Price Chopper supermarket will be built, benefits the communities.

"It (the church) will go on the tax rolls for the first time since 1795," F. Redmond Griffin, an attorney for Phi Gamma Delta, points out. "They're going to keep the steeple on the church and they've agreed with the city that they will look after Barker Park, which has been a problem to the city.

The ZBA represents just the first hurdle toward frat house fruition. Phi Gamma Delta's proposal now needs approval from the city planning commission.