The chapter has officially moved to 415 West College Avenue.
In 2015, the active members of the Florida Beta chapter and a select group of alumni entered into a legal and financially binding agreement with a local Tallahassee entrepreneur to renovate a historic house and build a significant housing structure behind the vintage home to house the brothers of the SAE fraternity at Florida State. In the fall of 2017, the entire complex was completed and turned over to the chapter for habitation. On the weekend of April 14 and 15th, the house was given its official grand opening.
The chapter house located at 415 W. College Avenue was built 1920. This Italiante style historic home was originally owned by Orion Parker, a Tallahassee contractor. It was the home for many families and organizations prior to a fire that left only a shell of a house. It is rumored to have the same marble that was used in the in original Governor’s mansion built at the same time. Directly behind and attached it is a brand new 64 person apartment style housing complex.
The Project to Find a New Home for the Chapter
From 2009 to 2017, the chapter rented a dilapidated apartment complex on West Call street, just off of Tennessee Street. With so few such complexes available, the chapter had to make due under less the than desirable conditions as few if any alternatives existed. Each year the chapter renewed their lease at a painful price (compared to value) until 2016 when they were notified that the owner was considering selling the property to the university and if so, the chapter would be forced to leave. This situation would have resulted in a homeless chapter and therefore, a longer term solution was sought.
Option 1: Heritage Park - Too far from campus
Option 2: Buy an existing fraternity house - None available
Option 3: Build a new fraternity house - Options on campus were limited
Option 4: Enter into an agreement with a developer to have a house built and rent it long term - Best location and solution for the Beta Chapter.
The Plan Comes Alive
In the spring of 2015 the incoming chapter President, Ryan Mills, approached chapter alumni advisors JR Long and Chase Dickson with the need to locate a new chapter house. JR Long, who is in commercial real estate, scanned the local market until he found the present property. Shortly after finding the viable piece of property, Ryan consulted his father, David, who is the owner of a senior living management and development company to discuss options for a complete rebuild of the burnt out structure and new construction for residence. They also came up with a finance plan that would be beneficial to both parties.
Dan Gilbertson, property owner has strong ties to Tallahassee since he owns the Potbellys, The Pink Lady, Brickhaus Pizza (all on College Ave) as well as other businesses in the area agreed to discuss options for the Beta Chapter to reside at 415 W College Ave. Many meetings and months later a handshake deal was in place to rebuild the historic home for a chapter house where the boys could meet, and have social events and build an apartment like structure attached for the brothers to live in.
This is when the real work began.
In the summer of 2015 Ryan took on an internship with Dan, and the project of historical and zoning work. Attendance of weekly City Council meetings and frequent trips to the City Planner’s Office were necessary to get College Ave reclassified from residential to business and to get a noise ordinance passed.
During the fall semester of 2015 Ryan and the Executive Board (while in school full time) spent many hours diligently working to
- slash the budget to reallocate chapter funds to gather a down payment.
- change the bi Laws to make sure enough SAE’s would always live in the house.
- convince the bank that SAE was a business not a social club. That was necessary to apply for and secure a loan from the bank.
At the same time, David Mills and Dan Gilbertson met with architects from St. Louis and Atlanta to talk about the design and construction of the apartment complex on the existing land. A more in depth financial plan was examined as to how the project would pay off over the next several years, ensuring a sound investment as presented.
Ryan and JR contacted the father of the late Alex McDonald about obtaining his legal help with the project. Skip McDonald is a respected attorney in Ocala and was more than happy to join the cause. Skip’s goal was to ensure the SAE chapter’s needs were met from a legal point of view. However, Skip took responsibility for so much more and became part of the team who was making this all a reality.
JR Long also kept in contact with Dan to keep the project on the right track.
In the Fall of 2015 Dan secured the services of a local builder and updated plans. These new building plans were presented to the collegiates and alumni showing them that a new house was in reach.
As the discussion on the apartment part of the project was on going the renovation of the historical home had begun. Ryan’s mom, Val Mills was in constant contact with Dan to help configure rooms and choose cabinets, counter and fixtures. She also worked on the apartment set up as well.
As with any construction new or renovations we were faced with many hurdles. They ranged from utility and drain issues to permitting and inspections ADA requirements and weather.
Finally, in December of 2016 three of the executive members moved into the upstairs of the renovated home. While it was great that they were able to be there and watch over the house there was no internet access for months and many times power, and water was off while construction was continuing. Not to mention the construction noise. But the apartment building was taking shape.
Finally, in February of 2017 the owner Dan Gilbertson decided to negotiate double shifts with the contractors for and opening for the 2017-2018 school year.
JR, Skip and Ryan created apartment leases and secured a management company. Many leases were already signed for other locations. But we were able to fill 2 floors of the new structure for the fall.
On August 15, 2017, just 6 weeks after a loan to the chapter was approved for the furniture. We received furniture delivery for 60 rooms. Seven undergraduates, the Mills worked for many hours, unloading the truck, unboxing, assembling and placing furniture into the rooms. JR, and Dan did a walk-though with the contractor of the newly constructed building. The first boys moved August 16, 2017.
Funding: Financial Guarantees
The team, JR, Skip, Chase, Ryan and David, needed to come up with some initial financing (in the form of a down payment or guarantees) at this time. The group started to ask for guarantors. However, their success on this part of the project was limited. The group themselves would become the main source of funding.
Skip, JR, Alex, the Mills Family and 2 other chapter family members agreed to guaranty the revenue of the loan for two years – until the SAE’s could create enough revenue with rents. In the total sum of $300.
Late Summer, some alumni fundraising was attempted. However, skepticism by those approached resulted in a feeling of discouragement and that approach was stopped. The shift moved to a guarantee model with a select few individuals “vouching” for financial guarantees associated with the house over a 2 year period. The financial guarantees are currently in place and are in the amount of $300,000. The people who backed this effort and are currently financially liable include: Skip, Alex, JR, and The Mills Family.
Funding: Monthly Rent
The chapter alone faces the responsibility to meet their financial obligations each month. However, help would be greatly appreciated. The models were forecasted to produce razor thin margins with many including moderate financial deficits. However, the completion of the house was not confirmed and many students who were planning on living in the house in the fall of 2017 sought shelter by traditional means (signing leases at apartment complexes). This resulted in a financial downfall as the house was not filled for the 2017-2018 school year. During the fall of 2017, an unfortunate death of a FSU student who was in a fraternity resulted in the school suspending all Greek activities. The already cash depleted chapter has to continue to collect dues from its members who were not able to see any value from those dues since there were not activities. This resulted in members falling behind in their payments.
These situations were not communicated to the alumni as the chapter did not seek any financial help. They accepted the financial burden but at this point, they simply cannot maintain these budget shortfalls any longer. They now could use some help from the alumni for furniture for the house as well as funds for a safety net.
Funding: Furniture for the house/individual rooms
To maintain the upkeep of the house and ensure they integrity of each room, furniture was purchased for each living space. This eliminated the old method of a student building their own bunk bed from lumber and hammering it into the walls of the house, as happened year after at 840 W. Tennessee St.
There are 16 rooms in the house each with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. They are equipped with beds, dressers, sofa , coffee table and bar stools so that the students will not need to find and purchase their own. This will help preserve the house in the long term as no lofts or bunk beds will be constructed and screwed into walls as done in previous houses. No damage will be incurred during the frequent ‘move-in / move-out’ process where the brothers find ways to jam in new beds and dressers, even if they don’t fit through door ways. The total cost to furnish the entire house was close to $50,000. A line of credit for that $50,000 was opened and used to pay for the furniture. The line of credit is interest only until August 2018 so there is a major desire to raise funds to help eliminate that debt.
The Chapter house was furnished with minimal funds that were collected from a GO Fund Me page and money budgeted from chapter funds. Tommy Kilkers’ uncle donated table and chairs outfitted with garnet and gold for the porch and upstairs patio.
Methods to help reduce the current debt
There are three methods to have the entire Florida Beta family reduce the overall debt, including the $50,000 for the purchase of the furniture.
There are three main Methods:
- A straight and simple donation to the chapter. This is considered the small dollar value way to support the chapter. Simply donate whatever you like / whatever you feel comfortable with.
- The purchase of a SAE Legacy Brick. A write up of the brick program can be found on another page on this website. Here is the link. This is considered favorable price point with the hope that a majority of the active alumni take an active part in this program.
- The sponsoring of an individual rooms. This is considered a major financial sponsorship. Details on that program are to come as 60 individuals will be able to participate in this program.
The primary mechanism for raising the fundraising will be sponsoring of rooms in the house. Each of the sixty rooms will be named by a Florida Beta member who has exemplified what the True Gentlemen means to all of us. A brother or a class will be able to sponsor the naming of the room for that brother. For example, the Buddy Strauss Room, sponsored by Alex Grohmann, the Vic Prinzi Room sponsored by the John and Jane Doe family or the Bob Nellums room by the class of 1958. (A special note should be made that rooms cannot be sponsored by the associated family. For example, the Strauss, Prinzi or Nellums families could not sponsor the room for that brother. This avoids the any sort of implied obligation by the family to donate).
To start, 20 rooms will be named after Florida Beta brothers and those 20 rooms will be available for sponsorship. Nominations will be accepted from any brother and the Florida Beta Alumni Association will determine who the brothers are of that initial class. For the next four years, 10 additional rooms.
Selection Process for Recognizing a Brother for Room Naming
During this yearly process, anyone can nominate a brother to be recognized as worth for the naming of a room. The Florida Beta Alumni Association (FBAA) will receive nominations, consider the contributions towards the chapter, Florida State and the community and then vote. The names of the selected brothers will be announced each spring.
Sponsoring of a Named Room
During an event of significant attendance by SAE brothers, an auction will be held for the honor of sponsoring the newly named brothers. A suggested financial minimum for the sponsoring will be determined by the FBAA each year. The amount should coincide with any financial needs of the chapter if possible. As noted above, the family of a recognized brother cannot sponsor the associated room.
Selection Process for “Hall of Fame”
Starting in 2022, recognized brothers can be move to “Hall of Fame” status. The selection process will be the same as for the recognized brothers. Once a brother is moved into this status, his name will be removed from an individual room and added to a plaque in the main chapter room.
Criteria for Recognized or Hall of Fame Status
There is no set criteria for a brother to be recognized or for the induction into the Hall of Fame. The nominated candidates will be reviewed annually by the Florida Beta Alumni Association.
Entities who have previously recognized a Florida Beta brother could be used to fortify a brother’s nomination. Examples of
Additionally, the owner of the House Dan Gilbertson and the Property Management company will be conducting Monthly walk through inspections of the property and rooms in order to preserve the quality and integrity of the House and keep it in good condition for years to come. The money raised will be safeguarded in our Alumni account, which is overseen and accounted for by Tom Harrison (Florida Beta 1990), a CPA with Laingian and Associates and Cobb Harbeson.