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Homeless Frat Moves Into Future Paul Allen Furnishes WSU House With Computers, Ice-Free Parking

Sun., Aug. 11, 1996

Each room of Washington State University’s newest fraternity house has its own temperature control and four phone jacks to transmit voice, data and cable.

For those who can’t afford personal computers, there’s an upper-level computer lab furnished with six high-speed Pentium 133 computers. A computer terminal in the kitchen allows the 60-year-old cook to balance her budget and order food.

The 20-car parking lot is equipped with sensors that can trigger an underground electrical heating lattice, keeping the lot ice-free in the winter.

Sound high-tech? Consider the former WSU student who bankrolled it: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen of Seattle.

Allen and his old college roommate, Bert Kolde, for years kicked around the idea of rebuilding the old Phi Kappa Theta fraternity house, which has long been razed.

The talk became a reality. On Thursday, students young enough to be their sons will move into the $3.1 million, high-tech building.

“Our level of excitement continues to grow,” Kolde said of the nearly complete project. “It’s gone from being an idea and a vision to a reality.”

The old Phi Kappa Theta house was a modernish stucco box, low on amenities and positioned so far back on the lot that you could drive down Greek Row without spotting it.

Before flushing, guys had to yell “Watch it in the shower!” to avoid scalding someone, said Mike Flood, the rebuilding project manager and Phi Theta Kappa alum.

Frigid in the winter and stifling in the summer, the old house was a fire hazard year-round because of the multi-unit plug-ins used to add electrical outlets.

Mowing the lawn was a challenge because of its 40-foot incline.

The house, long a vacant eyesore, was eventually condemned and leveled. Allen later purchased the property.

The new house is a red brick structure whose white picture frames and bell tower are reminiscent of schoolhouses past.

In addition to the high-tech amenities, there is a rec room with nice lighting, cozy furniture and a big-screen TV. Outside is a full-size basketball court.

The Phi Kappa Theta fraternity reactivated six years ago. Its nucleus of 20 members now lives in residence halls but will move into the house Thursday.

Allen is expected to spend at least another $300,000 equipping WSU’s 40 fraternities and sororities along Greek Row with digital-age technology. Washington Water Power, the utility that provides electricity on campus, is spending an equal amount to string fiber-optic lines on its electrical poles, connecting the houses to the university’s central computer processing center.

Linking the Greeks to WSUNet which provides 24-hour e-mail access to professors and an express ramp onto the Internet - brings fraternities and sororities at par with the already wired campus dorms. Fraternities and sororities will pay $25 a month, per house, to connect to the utility’s line.

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