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New home being purchased for ECU chancellors' residence

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The new Chacellor's residence in Star Hill Farms subdivision on Jan. 17, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Plans for renovating and expanding the ECU chancellor’s residence changed suddenly when a private homeowner in the Star Hill Farm residential neighborhood of Greenville recently offered his home for sale, university officials confirmed Wednesday.

A purchase contract was struck between the home’s owner and the ECU Foundation after the home’s owners, Greenville dentist Thomas Webb and his wife, Karen, offered the home located at 3100 Kariblue Lane for sale to the foundation for $1.3 million, ECU officials confirmed. 

There was little debate over the need to provide more expansive space than what the Dail House — the existing chancellor’s residence on East Fifth Street — could provide. The residence serves as much for public functions as as it does as home to the chancellor’s family. 

Chancellor Cecil Staton and his wife moved last fall into a home on Dartmouth Drive, owned by the ECU Foundation, in anticipation of a renovation project at the Dail House.

The renovation and expansion plan became less desirable, however, when contractors informed ECU officials of the work and the cost that would be involved in the job, a university spokesman said. It also was a concern for the UNC Board of Governors

“The chancellor’s residence is 90 years old. It can get crowded pretty easily, even with a small number of people and doesn’t serve well for functions of any size,” the spokesman said. “The kitchen is barely suitable to prepare a meal for a family of three.”

When officials looked more thoroughly at how the house could be converted and expanded to accommodate the uses has to serve, the price tag rose to about $3.5 million, he said. That figure was based on reports received from contractors on the work that would be needed for plumbing, electrical and other infrastructure work, including asbestos removal. that would have to be undertaken under strict guidelines pertaining to homes on the historic registry.

The renovations also would have to include installation of an elevator to make the home compliant with regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Plans included the removal or demolition of four properties on South Summit and South Jarvis streets, adjacent to the residence. ECU is still in the midst of the Request for Proposals for relocation or demolition of those four properties, officials said.

At about that time, the opportunity to purchase the Webb home arose and the ECU Foundation took the opportunity.

Although no university funds are being used for the purchase, Business N.C. reported that some members of the UNC board objected to the home’s price. Some board members also had concerns about the mounting cost projections for the original renovation project, the ECU spokesman said. At about that time, though, the new opportunity arose, he said.

“When you consider the comparative cost of the other project and the amount of time it would entail, this seemed a no-brainer,” the spokesman said.

The appraisal process is underway and the appraised value is expected to significantly exceed the asking price, the ECU spokesman said.

Another reported concern for some Board of Governors members is the home’s distance from the ECU campus. The Webb house is located about 2.5 miles from the ECU Heart Institute and the School of Dental Medicine, and less than 3 miles from the Brody School of Medicine on ECU’s west medical campus. It is about 5 miles from Chancellor’s Way in the center of the main campus.

Responding to Business N.C.’s contention that each dollar spent on a home is one less available for scholarships, the ECU official said none of the foundation’s funds for the purchase were or would have been targeted for scholarship purposes. Christopher Dyba, ECU vice chancellor for advancement and president of the ECU Foundation, was unavailable Wednesday to comment on the ongoing arrangements.

No closing date was given for the purchase of the Star Hill Farm home. The appraisal process should be completed by the end of January, the ECU spokesman said.

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