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New $3.1 million campus mansion awaits next UF president (w/video)

Published Oct. 15, 2014

GAINESVILLE — University of Florida officials say the multi-million dollar president's home under construction on campus will be move-in ready for the school's new leader in January.

The school's search committee narrowed its list on Tuesday to Cornell University Provost W. Kent Fuchs and New York University Provost David McLaughlin. The committee is expected to select the university's 12th president on Wednesday.

Construction of the $3.1 million president's mansion — paid for by private donations — was meant to lure the most qualified candidates to lead the university to its desired top ten status.

"We are recruiting a president who will lead the next phase of our top ten efforts, and we knew that the caliber of that person is going to be very high," UF spokesperson Janine Sikes said. "In that sense, it's part of the recruitment package for the new president."

The old home, located off of West University Avenue with little privacy, was built in the 1950s and is fairly outdated, Sikes said. In 2006, current President Bernie Machen opted to live in a private, off-campus home instead of the on-campus domicile. Machen retires in December.

Before launching its search for a new president, the selection committee hired outside consultants who reported that 82 percent of peer institutions provide a house for the president and 88 percent of those require the president to reside there.

Renovations of the old home, including new bathrooms and technology improvements, were less cost effective than building a new one, Sikes said.

The cost is covered by a $3.5 million donation from alumni John and Mary Lou Dasburg of Key Biscayne. It will be named the Dasburg House and double as a gathering place for alumni, students and university guests.

Planned features for the two-story, 5,000-to-6,000-square-foot mansion include smart technology, four bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms, two studies, a warming and summer kitchen, a media/recreation room and living and dining spaces.

Sikes said the university plans to renovate the old president's home in the future, but a budget for that project has not yet been determined. For now, it will continue to serve as a gathering place for the more than 80 events held there each year.

Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow her @kemettler.

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