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Univ. of Maryland seeking approval to demolish president’s house

Wallace Loh has been the president of the University of Maryland, College Park for a little more than a year, and now the school wants to knock his house down.

He’ll get another house, sure. But the decades old President’s Residence — it’s tucked between University of Maryland University College and Ludwig Field, where the winning fall sports teams play — will be no more.

The University System of Maryland is seeking Board of Public Works approval to knock down the mansion, built in 1956. And it seems USM has a pretty good case to break out the wrecking ball.

According to the board’s agenda, the house “is no longer suitable for functioning as both a residence and as a venue for important events hosted by the president.”

It gets better (or worse, if you’re one of the people who lives there).

The president of the state’s flagship institution is living in and hosting events at a house that “has not been upgraded or refurbished since 1991 and does not meet current life safety codes; is not ADA accessible; many asbestos containing materials remain; and the building is in significant repairs.”

If not meeting “life safety codes” sounds bad to you, you’re right. The code was developed by the National Fire Protection Association to cover “minimum building design, construction, operation, and maintenance requirements necessary to protect building occupants from danger caused by fire, smoke, and toxic fumes.”

The Maryland Historical Trust has no issue with the demolition, according to USM. In a Feb. 25 letter, the trust wrote knocking down the house “will have no adverse effect on historic properties, including archeological sites.”

Loh’s new digs will be built by the University of Maryland College Park Foundation next to the site of the existing, asbestos-laden residence. The $7.2 million project will be funded through gifts and donations, the bulk from 30 individual donors, according to the foundation.

The foundation receives about 35,000 gifts every year and donations totaled more than $105 million in fiscal 2011.

The new house will serve as both a residence and event space. Some $5.2 million will cover the 10,000-square-foot event side and $2 million will pay for the residence.

The reception room will be large enough for 125 seated guests, or 350 standing ones. The foundation anticipates the house will host about 100 events per year.

The size of the residential side of the building will shrink to 4,000 square feet from the 5,600 in the one standing now. But the foundation says the new living space will be more “functional” and include a two-car garage, formal dining room with seating for 24 and four bedrooms.

The foundation has drawings posted here. Construction will be finished in 2012 and the event space will be available starting in September, according to the foundation.

One comment

  1. Dr. Loh bought a home in University Park when he came here. It is very large and should be sufficient for entertaining. I guess we have money to burn, or at least the College Park Foundation appears to – perhaps they might spend some money helping young people to get an education without mountains of debt.