Inside Rensselaer
Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity Purchases Former Church for New Home

Photos courtesy of Paul Marano ’87
Several members of Rensselaer’s Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity are planning to move into a distinctive and historic new home. Last month, the fraternity officially took ownership of the former St. Francis DeSales Church and Rectory on Congress Street in Troy. The fraternity, which currently consists of 19 student members and more than 600 alumni, finalized the purchase of the buildings from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany after the sale was approved by the City of Troy Zoning and Planning Boards last fall.

The buildings are owned and managed by the Phi Sigma Kappa Alumni Association of Troy, which is responsible for providing safe, affordable, quality housing to its student members. According to the association’s president, Paul Marano ’87, a few students will be moving into the buildings this spring to address any maintenance or security issues as they arise and help oversee modifications approved by the site plan that supports shared use of the church building with the community.

“We are very excited about the move,” said Justin Adibi, chapter president and a junior majoring in biomedical engineering. “We are looking forward to meeting our new neighbors and making positive contributions to the quality of life for all who live and work in the Congress Street/Mount Ida neighborhood.”

Once settled, the fraternity will attend local neighborhood association meetings as well as other local community group meetings as a way to develop a relationship with the community and their neighbors. “We are excited about the projects and programs we are planning for the neighborhood as well as working with groups who have an interest in using our community space,” said Jim Frosell, the fraternity’s student community relations chairman and a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.

As part of their first community service project, the fraternity plans to partner with the Alley Improvement Project in the fall to clean up the alley adjacent to the Prospect Park ball fields. Additional plans include funding the launch of a $50,000 community development micro grant program that would provide grants of up to $1,000 per applicant to residents, property owners, not-for-profits, and community organizations living within the Congress Street/Mount Ida neighborhoods.

According to fraternity members, residents could use the grants to support exterior home repair/maintenance projects, neighborhood beautification projects, crime/drug prevention programs, and other social programs of value to the neighborhood. Presently, the fraternity is working with the Troy Rehabilitation & Improvement Program (TRIP) to develop the details and management of the program.

“A grant program such as this can have a significant effect on the revitalization of the neighborhood and could tie in nicely with the Lower Congress Street project currently under development,” said Marano. “We hope that once the program gets up and running, other organizations with a vested interest in neighborhood revitalization will help fund the program.”

“I am pleased to see a vacant building being reused for both student housing and the betterment of the surrounding community,” said Troy Councilman Ken Zalewski, who represents the area in which the church is located. “I am certain that Phi Sigma Kappa will make a positive impact on the neighborhood, and I look forward to working with fraternity leadership in order to keep them involved and active in the neighborhood.”

The fraternity property also borders Prospect Park. “We welcome the Phi Sigma Kappa community and look forward to a relationship of working together for the further advancement of Prospect Park and the City of Troy,” said Peter Grimm, president of the Friends of Prospect Park, an organization that aids the City of Troy in caring for the park.

Brant Caird, president of the Mount Ida Preservation Association, said, “I think it’s a good example of the adaptive reuse of a beautiful building here in our neighborhood.”

The fraternity is planning to have an open house, after the completion of their site plan renovations, sometime in the fall.
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 4, March 4, 2011
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