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UM to demolish president's residence

A 55-year-old brick mansion that serves as the official residence for the University of Maryland's president will be razed this fall and replaced with a new structure if the state's Board of Public Works on Wednesday approves the demolition.

The 5,600-square-foot home, which has not been upgraded in 20 years, has outlived its usefulness, contains asbestos and is not accessible to the disabled, a university official said. Work on a new, $7.2 million home and event center on the College Park campus is under way.

"It was determined that it could be fixed up at enormous expense and you'd still be left with a structure that wasn't ideal," said Brodie Remington, president of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, a nonprofit group overseeing the project. "It was going to cost as much and would not be anywhere near as good as starting over."

The foundation is raising money for the project through private donors, he said.

In addition to safety issues — it is the only residence on campus without a fire sprinkler system, for instance — university officials say it is a lousy place to throw a party. Wining and dining donors and international guests is part of the president's job, and the school hosts as many as 100 such events annually.

Patsy Mote, the wife of former College Park President C.D. "Dan" Mote, told Washingtonian magazine in 2005 that the building was not originally conceived as a president's residence and had to be modified to serve the purpose. "The party room is a converted garage," she said.

The Mote family lived in the residence for 12 years, from 1998 to 2010. The school's current president, Wallace Loh, is living in a home near campus that he purchased himself. Loh has not been involved in the planning for the new building, university officials say.

In a Feb. 25 letter, the Maryland Historical Trust found that the demolition "will have no adverse effect on historic properties, including archaeological sites," according to a Board of Public Works document. Historic preservationists at the university's school of architecture could not be reached for comment.

The new structure, known as University House, will have an event center that can seat 125, a full catering kitchen and formal dining room, and will face the campus, according to a summary prepared by the foundation. A separate, 4,000-square-foot residence will be built next to the event space.

Though the new residence will be smaller, the space will be more functional. The home will include four bedrooms, a study, a family room, a kitchen and a garage.

Though the project got started late, Remington said it is on schedule to be finished in July if winter weather does not hamper construction.

Its cost has increased by roughly $1 million since an initial estimate because of a number of design upgrades. Builders had to increase the size of a hallway, and they also improved the building's efficiency, which officials said would reduce energy costs.

The foundation has estimated that it will raise the bulk of the money for the project from 30 donors. Remington said virtually all of the funding has been secured in the form of commitments and that the foundation will temporarily put up some of its money for cash flow.

About 35,000 donors give to the university each year and contributed more than $105 million in the most recent fiscal year.

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