It won’t be long until the massive project across Alcoa Highway is complete and UT adds another beautiful piece of architecture to the campus.
    
With the first houses expected to be completed in August, the termed Sorority Village will provide a sense of community to Panhellenic members and also seek to increase UT’s ability to bring to campus students for whom Greek life is important.
    
“We expect if everything goes according to plan, we will have more than half the sororities open this fall,” Lindi Smedberg, Panhellenic adviser, said. “And the sororities that have not opened will remain in the Panhellenic Building and expect to have completed construction within the next year.”
    
The 13 houses will range from 9,000 to 17,000 square feet. The most expensive house will cost about $5 million, and each house is funded by private, sorority funds. The plans indicate that between 35 and 48 women will be living in each house.
    
One of the biggest perks of Sorority Village is the opportunity for sisters to have a common space to share for more than one hour for every week.
    
“Houses will be a place not only for the women to live and for meeting space, but to also be a kind of hang out space,” Smedberg said. “If you are in between classes and you want to hang out, it’s now a great place to strengthen inter-sorority bonds.”
    
“We’re probably most excited about the common space of community that Panhellenic has been lacking,” Morgan Owens, junior in public relations, said. “Right now, it’s hard for some of the younger girls to get acquainted with the older ones in the chapter because they only see us for a brief period of time weekly. Now, at times chapters will be eating together and can host events at their houses instead of having to go off campus.”

    
Even though some sort of fraternity row, either on Lake Avenue or at the current Fraternity Park Drive, has been in existence since the 1950s, there is uncertainty as to why it has taken until the 2010s for the construction of sorority houses.
   
 “No one really knows why we don’t have them,” Owens said.
    
“There were plans for townhouses about 10 years ago to be erected in the 20th Street/Terrace Avenue area, but that didn’t work out,” Smedberg said. “Plans for Sorority Village began to emerge at least four years ago, because recruitment catalogs from 2007 have mention of future houses. Of course, each sorority had to complete their fundraising for the construction before building could begin.”
    
Owens, current Panhellenic vice president of recruitment, noted that the houses will provide a recruiting tool UT has lacked for more than 30 years.
   
 “It will take a couple years to adjust because not all of the houses will be done this fall,” Owens said. “And this year we will be trying to make it as fair and equal as possible. It will be a great recruiting tool. We won’t have to cram 100 or more potential new members with almost an entire chapter into a tiny suite. It’s a great tool to draw a lot of people to campus, and I think it’s also going to help with alumnae because they’ve worked so hard to get this and they can see it and they can get more involved with their chapter.”
    
The future of the Panhellenic Building at the corner of 16th Street and Cumberland Avenue is unconfirmed, but the option that has progressed the furthest is that the UT ROTC program will move into the building after the planned demolition of the Stokely Athletic Center.
    
Plans indicate that Laurel Hall, now primarily a space for Panhellenic sororities by floor, will become housing similar to Apartment Residence Hall. Coupled with the plans for a new residence hall at the corner of Francis Street and Andy Holt Avenue, Laurel will allow Apartment Residence Hall to be cleared for renovations.
    
“When the village is complete, the upgrades are going to get rolling,” Smedberg said.
    
“It’s an exciting time,” Owens said. “We can’t wait for the Village to be finished.”