Formally known as the president’s residence, the building nestled at the top of Nez Perce Drive will be replaced in the near future with an innovative building the preliminary schematics are calling the “University House.”
The home that has housed University of Idaho presidents since 1966 is currently unoccupied. University officials are awaiting the final designs to present to the UI Board of Regents by August at the latest, with the hopes of starting the demolition phase in September, said Ron Smith, vice president of finance and administration.
Smith said UI has officially brought Hummel Architects and Golis Construction on board. He said both of the firms are either operated by or employ many UI graduates.
The preliminary design shows a two-floor home with approximately 3,382 square feet of private living space and about 1,792 square feet of entertainment space. There is a separation of living and entertainment space in order to provide the residents more privacy — something Smith said the current house lacks.
Smith said although the design is promising, it’s not set in stone and will likely undergo some changes before the plan is presented to the board.
“This is very, very preliminary and its function is to go out and raise money,” Smith said. “We’ve taken a look at maybe changing and adding some things to the original schematic drawing and floor plans to make things a little bit better and (the contractor) is actively pricing that right now.”
Smith said the current president’s house is unfit for the ever-changing role of the university’s chief executive officer, and the home needs to be an executive residence as well as an event space.
“The job of the president has really changed,” Smith said. “They are one of our primary fundraisers, and one of our primary contacts with our legislative contingence, and they should have a nice place in order to invite people in and make them fall in love with the University of Idaho.”
Smith said the home in its current condition might not be suitable for anyone. He said it needs a new HVAC — heating, ventilation and air conditioning — system, new windows, a new boiler and would soon need a new roof. On top of the major improvements needed. Smith said there were many other smaller repairs taken into account.
“If you put all of those things together the cost would be very similar to having a new (house),” Smith said. “The cost of those improvements and necessary upgrades came up to somewhere in the neighborhood of over $800,000. So we thought let’s do the new one and have something that we can be proud of and something that will be there for 10 more presidents maybe, hopefully they’ll all stay there 10 years.”
Plans for reconstructing the president’s residence began about a year ago, after former UI President M. Duane Nellis left UI to be president at Texas Tech University, Smith said. A task force was formed them, to assess the feasibility of a remodel.
The task force unanimously came to the conclusion that a new house should be built in the same location of the current one.
With the vision of the University House on the table, Smith said one of the things he’s waiting on is a quote about how much more it will cost to have a brick facade instead of a wooden one.
“We would really like to use brick to keep with the look of the rest of the university,” Smith said. “But brick is a lot more expensive and so the cost and our budget will determine whether we use brick or not, we will have a better idea of that in the next few weeks.”
Smith said the university is relying on donor support through the UI Foundation to fund the project.
“We don’t really have a budget cap, the cap is really set at whatever the Foundation can raise,” Smith said. “Right now we’re thinking it’s going to be just over $1 million. I learned last week that the Foundation is well on their way to having enough money in order to pay the construction costs of the building.”
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