UGA in talks to buy out Sigma Chi's lease

The University is trying to negotiate with the Sigma Chi fraternity over their property on Lumpkin Street where the university would like to put a new Terry College of Business. C.B. SCHMELTER/Staff

The University and Sigma Chi have discussed relocating the fraternity away from campus to free up land for building development, according to Tom Jackson, vice president of public affairs.

“The University of Georgia’s master plan calls for the Terry College of Business campus to be constructed in that area around where Sigma Chi is now,” Jackson said.

Terry College Dean Robert Sumichrast said the plan is to be implemented in three parts, ultimately resulting in the “Business Learning Community.”

“It would include some of the things you would find in the Miller Learning Center — the breakout rooms, the project rooms, classrooms and offices,” Sumichrast said.

Sumichrast said ultimately the Terry College would vacate its location in Brooks and Sanford Halls in favor of the new complex, which he said would alleviate two main problems. The first is that the space is too small for the college. The second is less quantitative.

“The bigger issue is that we want to have a space that promotes learning the way that a first-rate business school would in the 21st century,” he said. “The most important aspect of it would be something we’re calling The Commons, which would be an area, preferably in the center of these buildings, where students could learn informally.”

The complex, which is expected to cost about $140 million, would increase Terry College’s working space by 100,000 square feet. The first stage of building in the northwest precinct is expected to begin in 2013.

“There’s been a lot of support from alumni and from the business community and from the University to help us move toward this community concept,” Sumichrast said. “I think it’s going to be really good for the students. It’ll be a much better learning environment.”

The buildings are set for what the University is calling the Northwest Precinct — the area between Lumpkin, Hull and Baxter Streets and the Baptist Student Center.

Though the plan does not specifically go onto the land where the fraternity house is located, he said it might be more conveniently located if the University had access to the property.

Jackson said Sigma Chi signed a 40-year lease in 1996, with an option to renew for another 40 years.

But the University has met with the fraternity to discuss breaking the lease in a way beneficial for both.

“I would say those discussions have been positive, and we’re at the point of having lawyers finalize an agreement,” Jackson said.

Brad Kohl, Sigma Chi’s chapter adviser, said leadership in the fraternity is carefully considering for what is best for the undergraduate members, including the house’s ideal location on campus.

“You can’t beat it,” Kohl said.  “I was in school here at the same location.”

But the University’s offers may beat out a two minute walk to class.

“Well, things change,” he said. “And unfortunately, they see a need for the property, and we’re willing listeners at this point to see what comes up.”

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