Tidy up for Yudof

Chris Hamilton

As part of the more than $1 billion needed to repair and renew University facilities state-wide, officials are moving ahead with plans to spend $840,000 to repair Eastcliff mansion.
The work underway at the 27-room residence, which houses the University president and family, will include a new roof, an elevator for disabled people, interior repair, exterior painting and code improvements.
According to Ramsey County property records, the house is now valued at about $1.3 million.
Nine years ago, $1.5 million worth of costs not approved by the regents helped force former president Ken Keller to resign.
Since the Keller controversy, the University has done little maintenance to the estate. The upkeep of the home has been virtually ignored since 1988, and the roof has not been repaired for about 30 years.
Tom Meyer, an architecture professor and chairman of the Eastcliff Technical Advisory Committee, said the repairs are needed to maintain the integrity of the structure.
“The bottom line really is that the roof is worn out,” Meyer said. “The paint is also falling off. It’s almost that simple in terms of why we’re doing it.”
Following the Keller controversy, two committees were organized to oversee the estate: the Eastcliff Technical Advisory Committee, and Friends of Eastcliff.
The latter committee raises private donations for enhancements to the mansion not appropriate for University funds. For instance, the committee acquired $17,000 this summer for a new washer and dryer, recessed lighting and storage for University President-designate Mark Yudof’s art collection.
Regent Patricia Spence chairs Friends of Eastcliff and supports the repairs. During the past year, Eastcliff has held more than 100 events and hosted more than 4,500 guests. Because the estate doubles as a place for University functions, such as formal dinners, she believes it is a valuable tool.
“This home is not just a home, it has a public usefulness,” said Spence. “It has more value to the University as far as public relations than just a home.”
The decision to begin renovations now was based on need as well as timeliness. When the Hasselmos move out June 30, there will be a 30-day period before the Yudofs move in.
“It’s just so heavily used, it’s difficult to find a time when the work can be done effectively,” said Jo Anne Jackson, senior vice president for Finance and Operations.
A master plan for upkeep and renovations was organized by the Technical Advisory Committee in 1990. In 1995, Friends of Eastcliff and the University spent $204,000 on handicap accessibility and landscaping. After the elevator is installed, Eastcliff will fully meet American Disabilities Act requirements.
Funding for the current renovations of Eastcliff were first introduced by Gov. Carlson last January. The governor proposed $500,000 to be matched by the University. Legislators killed the idea.
On June 12, the President’s Recommended Operating Budget Plan requested $640,000 for Eastcliff. These funds, which are expected to be approved by the Board of Regents on July 10, would come from a central reserve account used for one-time spending projects, such as the Northrop Auditorium project, currently underway.
The other $200,000 for Eastcliff comes from the repair and replacement budget for the mansion. Budgeting for expected maintenance traditionally has not been embraced by University officials, a fact Regent Jessica Phillips, chairwoman of the facilities committee, is trying to change.
“The problem is that we haven’t invested in the depreciation of our facilities,” said Phillips. “This is normal for public institutions because the state provides for new buildings. But we’re trying to change that now and start investing in maintenance.”
The state provided $47 million this year for the capital budget, which allocates funds for the construction and repair of buildings. Out of that money, 80 percent is devoted to renewal or adaptation, said Eric Kruse, associate vice president of Facilities Management.
Since 1994 the University has completed five system-wide, whole building renewals. There are currently three buildings in the design or renovation stage, and 11 more buildings are slated for renewal.
There are also between 70 and 100 partial building repair and replacement projects currently in process, including Eastcliff.
Another deferred maintenance project is the construction of a new art building. The current building is operating with more than $8 million in code violations and is undergoing an asbestos abatement. A new building is in the pre-design phase and is on next year’s capital budget considerations list.
Michael Johnson, a senior ceramics student, is not amused by the administration’s choice to place Eastcliff over the art department.
“I think it’s typical of the same old same old prioritization at the University,” said Johnson. “It’s typical of the kickbacks provided for who’s making money for the University.”
Kruse said the art department renewal just has not been feasible.
“The art department building has not been a priority over time,” said Kruse. “We do not have the resources right now to renovate or renew it.”