After flooding catastrophe, KU fraternity at home, for now, in downtown luxury lofts

Phi Delta Theta house undergoing major repairs following pipe burst in December

The Phi Delta Theta fraternity house at 1621 Edgehill Road, just off the University of Kansas campus.

A University of Kansas fraternity is living in style this semester in downtown Lawrence’s newest luxury apartment building.

It’s not that Phi Delta Theta was actively looking to upgrade to a pad with a rooftop pool. They mainly needed a place where almost 90 men could move in on short notice after flooding from broken pipes ruined their chapter house over winter break.

888 Lofts, 888 New Hampshire St., just opened in September and had space to accommodate the fraternity for the spring semester, said Amanda Habiger, property management coordinator for First Management Inc. She said 87 men moved in mid-January into apartments throughout the building, which has 114 units and a total of 165 bedrooms.

The 888 Lofts, located at 888 New Hampshire St., are serving as a temporary home to members of KU’s chapter of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

No one was living in the Phi Delta Theta house at 1621 Edgehill Road when it flooded on Dec. 18, a couple days after finals ended, said Beck Johnson, corporation board president for the fraternity’s KU chapter. After a neighbor noticed and reached fraternity representatives who were able to turn off the water, the heavy damage was done.

“Unfortunately, not much was spared,” Johnson said.

The pipes that burst were part of a dry sprinkler system in the attic, he said. The house flooded from the top down.

Water poured through all four floors, spilled out windows and pooled more than a foot deep on the house’s lowest level, a walkout basement with french doors facing Edgehill Road, Johnson said.

TV footage from the following day shows snow on the ground and clumps of icicles clinging to window sills on every level.

“The house quite literally looked like a Disney ice castle,” Johnson said. “They actually had to shut down Edgehill Road the next day because there was so much ice from water just flowing like a river out of the house.”

Phi Delta Theta had just completed a major renovation to the house last summer, Johnson said. He declined to say exactly how expensive that work was, but said it was in the seven figures and that basically everything inside had been new.

After the flood in December, disaster crews spent close to a month gutting the house and pulling back most of the drywall inside, Johnson said. The kitchen and dining room have been refurbished so members can eat and gather there, he said, but the rest of the house is still “a shell.”

Fraternity leaders are still trying to determine what caused the pipes to burst and working through paperwork and plans for repairs, Johnson said. The house is normally closed over the summer anyway.

Johnson said he’s confident that construction will be completed in time for members to move back in before the fall semester.

The chapter has about 115 active members, including the 87 live-ins, Johnson said.

Habiger said she was unaware of First Management ever relocating such a large group of students before, as it has at 888 Lofts.

“The management of the building has taken several measures to ensure that the occupancy for the fraternity members and long-term residents is a positive experience,” she said. “It is exciting to see the building at 100 percent occupancy.”