224 Ash LLC

Chapter House Managementhouse

224 Ash LLC, which is managed by a 10-member executive committee, owns and operates the chapter house at 224 Ash Avenue. The executive committee can be contacted by email at executivecommittee@224ash.com

Origins of 224 Ash LLC

In the late 1990’s, after 80 years of great success, Epsilon went into a terrible downward spiral caused by a variety of factors, most serious among them poor recruitment, alcohol-related issues, and a facility that had become functionally obsolete. The chapter house—with its open-air sleeping dorms and community bathrooms —had limit appeal for the “millennial” generation of high school graduates.

By the spring of 2003, the number of members living in the house shrank dramatically. Unable to make mortgage payments, the alumni Board of Control voted to put the house up for sale. That’s when alarm bells sounded for Epsilon alumni across the nation—it was time to “step up” and save Epsilon, and restore it to its rightful place as one of TKE’s best chapters and one of Iowa State’s top fraternities.

A conference call involving a large number of alumni started the discussion, but it was unproductive; there was no clear path out of trouble. The Board agreed to suspend the sale to see if a small group of alumni could develop a workable plan for survival.  Soon the group, led by Frater Gary Kounkel (E645, Loveland, CO), proposed the creation of an LLC, owned by alumni investors, that would:  (1) remodel the house to make it attractive to recruits; (2) be an ongoing steward of the property; and, (3) be an ally of undergraduate members.  The proposal was accepted and immediately the legal formation of the LLC began. Concurrently, an aggressive campaign, coordinated by Gary Mulhall (E802, Olympia, WA), began raising $1,000 share investments from alumni in two membership categories: Class A ($10,000 or more) with voting rights, and Class B ($1,000-$9,000), with no voting rights.

Results

  • 143 alumni answered the call for LLC investments, 54 in Class A and 88 in Class B.  A total of $1.7 million was raised to pay off the mortgage and remodel the chapter house. A major key to success was a firm stipulation that the possession and use of alcohol in the House would be prohibited, no exceptions. This policy continues and will not change.
  • The remodeling project eliminated the open-air sleeping dorms and converted study rooms to full-time study/sleeping spaces. The new floor plan includes seven suites with occupancies varying from 2-5, 11 single rooms, 10 double rooms, and one triple room.  Suites have either a private bath, a kitchenette, or both.  A “community” bathroom was kept on two floors (2nd and 3rd) for residents without baths.
  •  The new floor plan reduced maximum occupancy from 100+ to 60.  All residents sign a lease each semester, which includes food cost.  Room and board rates are better than ISU’s residence hall rates in most cases. (In summer, rooms are leased for a flat fee per resident.)  While the LLC was unable to pay members a dividend during its early years due to “break-even” occupancy, full occupancy now allows it to pay a 4% dividend to investors, with hopes of taking the annual dividend to 5% or more in future years. (Dividend payments are optional; a majority of members have declined them to help fund recent major improvement projects.)