ECU Foundation: Done deal on new chancellor residence

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The new Chacellor's residence is shown in the Star Hill Farms subdivision on Jan. 17. The ECU Foundation purchased the 8,500-square-foot home on 5.2 acres at 3100 Kariblue Lane for $1.3 million.


By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The ECU Foundation announced Monday that it completed the purchase of a home in the exclusive Star Hill Farm neighborhood of Greenville to be used as the chancellor’s residence. 

The 8,500-square-foot home on 5.2 acres at 3100 Kariblue Lane was purchased for $1.3 million, according to Chris Dyba, ECU vice chancellor for development and president of the private ECU Foundation.  It was designed by architect William Harvey.

The new residence is about 5.5 miles from the current residence, which is located across the street from the entrance to Chancellor’s Way in the center of the main campus

“The ECU Foundation is excited to have acquired this wonderful property,” Dyba said. “We are very grateful to the owner (Greenville dentist Thomas “Rick” Webb), because he allowed us to purchase his home at a price significantly below its appraised and replacement value. We believe this purchase will provide ECU a wonderful residence for its chancellor and a great venue to host functions for alumni, donors, students, corporate leaders and top candidates for ECU leadership.”

David Fisher, chairman of the ECU Foundation also commented on the purchase.

“I am pleased that the ECU Foundation is in a position to help our university by purchasing this house,” Fisher said. “This has been a multi-year plan that is best for ECU and Greenville.”

A move-in date has not been set, Dyba said.

According to the news release, the ECU Board of Trustees, which endorsed the Foundation’s purchase, has begun a review of the Dail House, the former chancellor’s residence on East Fifth Street, and surrounding properties that originally were purchased in 2015 to facilitate its expected renovation and expansion.

A recommendation from the trustees about its best use for the university and the surrounding community will follow at a later date, university officials said.

The university’s plans changed suddenly in January when Webb offered his home for sale. The offer was revealed in a North Carolina business magazine despite protests from some supporters that it could interfere with negotiations.

Chancellor Cecil Staton later expressed his frustration and disdain over the growing attention surrounding the matter, much of it negative, describing it as “a distraction.”

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.

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

The renovation and expansion plan became less desirable, however, when contractors informed ECU officials of the work and the estimated $3.5 million cost involved in the job, Dyba said. 

“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,” Dyba said. “The kitchen is barely suitable to prepare a meal for a family of three.”

It also was a concern for the UNC Board of Governors. That led to ECU pulling the request from the table and seeking other options, according to Dyba.

Meanwhile, members of the Greenville Historic Preservation Commission — the group that approved ECU’s initial plan — have since been seeking clarification from ECU administrators about what is next for the Dail House and its surrounding properties. A memo from ECU to the city last week did not offer clarity, members said.

“It doesn’t state, conspicuously, that the long-term plan is for the Dail House to be the chancellor’s residence,” member Chris Nunnally said. “That was a consistent part of the process for all the (certificates of appropriateness) that I’ve read.”

A decision to renovate the Dail House as either a residence or an event space — “but not both” — would cost in excess of $1.6 million in either case, the memo said. It also said that the university still is seeking “relocation or demolition” of the four surrounding properties. No one has expressed interest in relocating the houses.

Nunnally recalled that the commission’s deliberations on the subject at last month’s meeting focused on the legal question of whether the university — by apparently scuttling plans to renovate the Dail House for the expressed purpose of serving as a chancellor’s residence — had ceased progressing with the terms of the certificate, thereby nullifying it.

The memo said that, “Despite rumors and speculation, to the contrary, the university is still working to develop a long-term plan for the Dail House and surrounding properties.”

That did not seem clear to Nunnally.

“To me, that means the university doesn’t have a plan for the Dail House,” he said.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.