University of Missouri president's home questioned
By KMOV Web Producer
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- At the end of an inconspicuous road that winds behind the University of Missouri's athletic complexes is the house reserved for the president of the UM System.
By real estate standards, the home known as Providence Point is a mansion. The 12,630-square-foot dwelling has several dining and living areas, four fireplaces, eight bathrooms, four designated bedrooms and a lot of other rooms that have served as office and exercise space over the years.
A swimming pool in the middle of a large wooden deck and a rooftop patio perfect for sunbathing also are perks at Providence Point. And it's all surrounded by a wooded landscape tucked back just far enough to be hidden from the sight of the sports fans heading to games and events at nearby arenas. But what some might see as the property's best features, others consider its worst.
The public sections of the home aren't really large enough to host the kinds of crowds presidents might like to host, and the way those rooms connect pose some traffic flow problems, interim President Steve Owens said. On the flip side, the formality of the residence doesn't exactly translate into a warm, homey feel.
"Some people believe it's a nice structure, a nice hybrid that can host official functions and also serve as a residence," Owens said. "Others believe that, because we've tried to make it a hybrid-type building that does both, we got neither accomplished."
And that wooded privacy that creates a serene daytime setting? Not only can it easily turn into spooky seclusion when, say, a president's wife finds herself alone there at night, it also serves as habitat for deer, opossums, skunks and other critters that have proved to be a challenge for family pets, system spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead said.
Bottom line, the next UM System president might not want to reside in the official university mansion.
Owens has started to question whether it makes sense for the university to maintain the president's home. Gary Forsee, who resigned in January, moved out earlier this month, and now, when the house is vacant, is the best time to analyze the situation, he said.
Unlike the chancellor's residence on Francis Quadrangle at MU -- a nearly 150-year-old structure that's hosted Mark Twain, Harry S. Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt -- Providence Point lacks historical significance. Sure, all eight presidents have lived there since it was built in 1971, but it hasn't hosted many notable guests, other than a handful of Missouri politicians. The property also got some not-so-flattering publicity in 2003 when former MU basketball player Ricky Clemons wrecked an ATV there during a party hosted by then-President Elson Floyd.
The house's design is one-of-a-kind, though -- so much so that there's no appraisal because there aren't comparable homes, Owens said. The public spaces, on either side of a main foyer, include a dining room that comfortably seats 16 and another living space that can be set up for larger gatherings.
A spiral staircase leads to a large bedroom upstairs, and additional rooms and offices are downstairs. A long, narrow hallway leads to the private quarters; essentially a second home added on in 1985, said Ashley Rhode, a special events coordinator and property manager who took the Tribune on a tour of Providence Point last week.
Although the house and subsequent addition were built using private funds, upgrades and maintenance costs come from the university's budget. Most recently, the Floyds upgraded the kitchen in 2005, and the Forsees added a gate and security system in 2008. Owens thinks offering up the home to the next president would require some additional maintenance and repairs.
Even if that person didn't live at Providence Point, though, the system would still provide some sort of housing allowance, a common practice in higher education, Owens noted. If that were the case, he said the president's home could be used for some other public purpose or, perhaps, as a residence for visiting professors who spend a semester or two at MU.
"The next president is going to come in and, if offered, decide whether to reside in Providence Point or somewhere else," Owens said.
Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com
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