The Old ISAO and Writing Center buildings turn into residences

Roze Brooks

Two houses across from the Rockhill Parking Structure sit vacant. They have functioned as office buildings for years. Now, they could once again serve as residences.

The house formerly occupied by the Writing Center at 52nd and Rockhill Road is directly across from Cockefair Hall faces Haag Hall diagonally.

The former International Student Affairs Office house sits further south on the 5200 block of Rockhill Road, and is distanced by a circle drive shared by Beta Theta Pi, Chi Omega and the African-American History and Culture House.

Eric Grospitch, assistant dean of students, said priority has been given to Greek organizations on campus.

“We facilitate the conversations, and we facilitate getting them into a rental home,” Grospitch said, referring to the 16 Greek chapters at UMKC.

Currently, many chapters’ housing is scattered on several blocks of Rockhill road.

Grospitch said Student Affairs and Student Involvement have spent two years working on a master plan that will be presented to the Board of Curators this fall. This includes long-term housing plans for fraternities and sororities.

“[There were] conversations with fraternity and sorority life to determine what their long-term housing wants were,” he said.

Grospitch dismissed concerns that concentrating too many Greek organizations in one area could lead to large house parties and noise violations.

“I don’t know that it’s any more of a concern if they were spread out,” he said. “It is what it is.  It’s probably better in some ways because they can hold each other accountable.”

Mel Tyler, Vice Chancellor-Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, commissioned Grospitch to create this committee within his first year at UMKC.

The taskforce included both alumni and students representing fraternities and sororities, as well as advisers.

“It took a process of over a year to determine what the needs were, what were the locations that were interesting, and of course, working with the neighborhood to figure out their needs and their concerns as things moved forward,” Grospitch said.

Desires expressed by more than 20 individuals present at the committee meetings varied.

This master plan focuses on the 5200 block of Rockhill Road.

The empty houses will need an extensive rehab.

“Since most of these houses have been used as office space rather than housing for many years, they will require fairly extensive renovations to restore kitchens, toilet facilities and other amenities that would be more typical in residential living,” said Vice Chancellor-Administration Robert Simmons. “Since some of the houses are larger, they would also require additional fire protection and ADA [disability] accommodations as a code requirement.”

The University will help centralize Greek organizations by providing a location closer the heart of campus.

“We’re trying to allow room for growth,” Grospitch said

Grospitch will be a tour guide for the locations, allowing chapters to determine if the building fits their individual needs.

Once logistics are hashed out, the University is expected to “break paint” as early as next fall, but the turnover time is expected to be short.

This strategic plan is to allow future.

Duplex apartments existing on the 5200 block would provide space for smaller chapters to move closer to campus.

Renovations of the ISAO house have presented a dilemma.

“It had been a duplex from day one and so trying to figure out what that looks like, does it stay two, does it go to one?” Grospitch said. “All of those questions then lead to design time, construction time and so forth.”

However, Grospitch emphasized that the African American History and Culture House will not be touched in any of these conversations.

“Be clear, that it will not, N-O-T, be addressed in this standpoint,” he said.

Several departments and offices still occupy University-owned houses along this stretch, including the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology and Military Science further south.

“We have been striving to keep the nature of the neighborhoods from a construction standpoint,” Grospitch said. “The University has been trying to move as many offices out of those University houses as they can over time. That’s been an ongoing process trying to return the neighborhood to a neighborhood.”

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