The original chapter house of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the pioneering Black intercollegiate Greek-letter organization in the U.S., is undergoing a remarkable transformation under the care of U.S. Ceiling Corp (USCC).
Founded on December 4, 1906, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Alpha Phi Alpha™ (A Phi A) is a historical institution with deep roots. The transformation of its founding chapter facility is a significant endeavor being carried out by USCC, a Rochester-based company located at 71 Goodway Drive, that has been expanding its presence in Ithaca.
USCC, certified by New York State as a minority and/or woman owned enterprise (MWBE), with a strong commitment to promoting diversity within the construction industry. This commitment has led USCC to assume the role of general contractor for the restoration of A Phi A's original chapter residence and program hub, aptly named the "House of Alpha.", in the Cornell Heights Historic District of Ithaca.
Occupying an 11,000-square-foot area at 105 Westbourne Lane, the House of Alpha holds a special distinction. This revered facility boasts a 15-bedroom house within the charming Cornell Heights Historic District.
Melissa James-Geska, President of USCC, expresses immense honor in partnering with the Alpha Light Fund and the founding chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha.
“As a minority- and woman-owned construction company continually working to build our capacity these past 22 years, we are deeply honored to partner with Alpha Light Fund and the founding chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha on such a historically significant initiative,” said James-Geska.
"This project represents a lot of firsts, most importantly for our trailblazing clients. To have a place to call home, that you own, right near Cornell University—where everything began in 1906—is beyond inspiring. This general contracting opportunity is also the first of its kind for my organization. We have worked very hard to break barriers and strengthen our value proposition and service offerings to be able to execute a project such as this, and we’re very grateful for the trust placed in our team and the opportunity to establish a foothold in the Ithaca market."
Alpha Phi Alpha has been a steadfast advocate in the African-American community's struggle for civil rights, with notable members such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Adam Clayton Powell, Thurgood Marshall, Paul Robeson, Andrew Young, Edward Brooke, and Cornel West.
Anticipated renovations include enhancements like an ADA-accessible entrance, updated mechanical and electrical systems, novel signage and flooring, exterior restoration including windows and siding, landscaping, outdoor patios, and the addition of a structural steel component and rooftop deck. USCC's mandate encompasses overseeing demolition and abatement, as well as interior and exterior renovations, turning the space into a future haven for its occupants.
“Just as the founding of Alpha Chapter was like the ‘big bang’ from which all Black Greek organizations sprang, we hope this milestone for Alpha Phi Alpha’s founding chapter both provides significant value for the local Black community and sets a precedent that other Black Greek collegiate chapters across the globe will follow,” said Alpha Light Fund President Dr. Dennis Mitchell.
Supervising the project's design is AEPM International, LLC, a minority-owned architectural and engineering firm known for its comprehensive services.
The transformational journey is well underway, with demolition and abatement processes already in progress since July. Those interested in contributing to this significant endeavor are encouraged to reach out to Rich Nestlen, Preconstruction Manager at US Ceiling Corp, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Minority and woman-owned construction companies are especially welcomed to participate in this remarkable initiative.