By Rachel Gross Weinstein
Imagine a 12,000-square-foot house with 13 bedrooms that sleeps 24 people and has an elevator, leather furniture, plasma screen televisions and stainless steel kitchen appliances. This may seem like a celebrity’s home, but think again — it’s the new AEPi house at the University of Texas at Austin.
The house, at 2807 Rio Grande, officially opened in July; a dedication weekend was held in October. In 2002, the original AEPi house from the 1950s was sold and the chapter was shut down for about three years. It was up and running again by 2005, but there was something missing: a new house.
A building committee of about eight former brothers was put together and the groundbreaking for the new property took place in November 2009. The $3,500,000 project took roughly seven months.
Dallasite Jeff Dworkin, chairman of the building committee and past master (president), said the goal was to build a house that could be multifunctional.
“We wanted to be able to accommodate large groups for events, but also didn’t want to interfere with the living and studying areas,” he said. “We were able to accomplish so much in 14 months by procuring the property, getting the plans approved and starting the building process. This is considered to be a premier fraternity house in Austin.”
The three-story house features a large foyer on the first floor; on the second floor are the lounge, chapter room, social hall, kitchen and balcony; the third floor has 11 double bedrooms, and two singles for the master and resident assistant, each with its own bathroom. There is also a study room and a laundry facility on that level.
It is considered to be one of the most technologically advanced fraternities on campus as well; there are no phone lines in the building and there is high-speed Internet access in every room.
Dworkin said so many fraternity brothers want to live in the house that they may need to have a lottery next year. He is anxious to have a new generation of members who can enjoy the house for years to come.
“It’s amazing we were able to do this,” he said. “We know this house will be around for a long time and just like anything else, we want it to be a legacy. The housing corporation wanted to be proud of what we did, and they really can be. This project is near to my heart. I hope one day, my son will go to UT and walk through the doors of AEPi and be proud to see my name on the building.”
Although it was sometimes challenging to stay within the budget, the building committee was successful in accomplishing its goals. With the house completed, the next step is to finish fundraising efforts, with the hope of extinguishing the mortgage. They accumulated about $1,700,000 from selling the other house with interest, and borrowed the rest of the money to complete the project.
Houston resident Scott Bishop, who was master of AEPi during the 1989–1990 school year, is chairman of the fundraising committee. Bishop said they have raised about $250,000 so far. He added that the house will allow the brothers of AEPi to continue to keeping the legacy of the fraternity alive.
“When they closed the other house down, it was like a knife through my heart because I wanted my sons to be able to go there,” he said. “With the groundbreaking last year, it was an amazing sense of Jewish brotherhood coming back. AEPi is a special fraternity and some of my best friends in the world are the guys I met there. It’s wonderful, and everything about the house is perfect.”
Of the five predominantly Jewish fraternities that have existed at Texas, AEPi has remained 100 percent Jewish since it was founded in 1939. Academics have always been important to the brothers as well, as they have one of the highest grade-point averages among all fraternities.
Chapter President Brian Milman has been in AEPi for four years. He said being able to get this house shows that AEPi has become stronger over the past few years.
He hopes the chapter will continue to gain a more prominent presence on campus and attract even more guys.
“Everything we’ve worked toward was getting the new house,” he said. “Now that we have it, we can improve all other aspects of the fraternity like a better brotherhood and getting more members. It’s nice to be the first president in the new house and it’s been an incredible experience. This is a wonderful time to join AEPi.”
New pledge and Dallas resident Eric Elfenbein added that he believes no other fraternity house compares to this one and he is looking forward to his years as a brother.
“It feels like the chapter is on a major rise and I believe we will be even better in the coming years,” he said. “I enjoy hanging out at the house; everything about it is wonderful.”
For more information, visit www.new.texasaepi.com.