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The Blue & Gray Press | November 22, 2017

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Luxury Homes Left Empty

JOEY MERKEL

The two luxury homes the University of Mary Washington bought last school year for a combined $3.2 million have been sitting empty since January, when the university acquired them.
School officials have allocated $350,000 to renovate the houses but say it will still be at least another three months before anybody moves in.
And they are still undecided about who—or what offices—will be housed there.
“Final decisions have not been made yet,” said Rosemary Barra, vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the faculty. “A lot of possibilities are being explored and I hope that in a few weeks we will have the details worked out.”
According to Rick Pearce, associate vice president for Business and Finance, the University hopes to have faculty or staff offices in the houses by January.
The architecture firm Boynton and Rothschild is under contract with the University to determine what needs to be done to the houses to bring them up to the state code. School officials cannot yet say when they will begin the actual renovations.
“Things are still in the planning phase,” said Pearce.
According to Pearce, officials do know that both houses will need to have sprinkler systems installed, and the houses will also have to be handicapped accessible.
The $2.1 million house at 1201 William St. came with a wine cellar, sauna and elevator, all of which Pearce said will likely remain.
“There have been no plans made at this time to dismantle or remove anything that does not have to do with the compliance issues,” he said.
According to school officials, among the factors the University will consider in determining what offices move into the houses are the size of a department and the amount of necessary equipment.
According to Pearce, it is unlikely that any of the sciences would be moved into the houses because of their equipment needs, and large departments such as English, Linguistics, and Speech are also unlikely to move because neither house could accommodate all the department faculty.
Pearce offered Mathematics as an example of a department that might be a viable option to move into one of the houses, because Math has relatively few faculty members and requires relatively little lab space.
Though the houses could accommodate offices, faculty who move there will likely have to teach their classes in other buildings, but Math Professor Keith Mellinger said he did not see that as a problem.
“I taught at two other universities before I came here to UMW and I never taught in the same building that my office was located until I came here,” he said. “So in some sense I don’t think the houses on College Avenue are inconvenient.”
Mellinger said he was concerned that faculty offices in the houses would be less convenient for students, which could potentially cut down on the number of students who seek out their professors during office hours.
UMW junior Carla Meyerhoeffer shares the same concern.
“It would be cool to go at first, but I don’t think I would continually go,” she said. “It’s more convenient to go right after class to their office since it’s in the same building.”