Home Campus University seeks approval for $2.3 million to renovate former Presidential Residence

University seeks approval for $2.3 million to renovate former Presidential Residence

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The former President's Residence at 29 Park Place. Photo by Ben Peters.

The building also known as “Bat House” that housed Ohio U’s presidents from 1952 to 2015 could get a facelift at a cost greater than $2 million.

The Ohio University Board of Trustees will consider approving over $2 million in renovations to the historic President’s Residence at 29 Park Place at its meeting on Friday.

According to the meeting’s agenda, the proposed renovations will cost $2.3 million and turn the home and adjacent carriage house into an “academic engagement center.”

In 2016, former Ohio U President Roderick McDavis established a group of school and Athens City officials to evaluate the best use of the property. That spring, the board of trustees approved the Comprehensive Master Plan, which included recommendations to improve 29 Park Place as a better use of space.

The current plan includes improvements to fire access, a pedestrian plaza and access for people with disabilities. The plan also calls for a library drop-off in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The residence housed university presidents from 1952, until it was vacated in 2015 by McDavis. The home was a topic of discussion after his wife, Deborah McDavis, was injured while dodging a bat inside the home.

Shortly after a bat infestation was discovered, the McDavises moved off campus. This sparked more than 100 students and faculty to protest in what was dubbed the “Bat Rally.”

Demonstrators felt that Ohio U’s president should live on campus to be more connected with students. They opposed the Ohio U Foundation’s decision to lease a $1.2 million house for the president instead of living in the historic President’s Residence.

Isaac Noland was a graduate student studying journalism at the time and attended the protest.

“I was there mainly just because of the sentiment that the president should live on campus and the money being spent to get him off campus,” Noland said. “We wanted to reign in spending at the top level.”

However, he feels different today than at the time of the rally.

“The cat is already out of the bag. Students will likely benefit more from an academic center than a president living on campus,” he said.

Ohio U’s current president, Duane Nellis, lives in a home purchased on the South Side of Athens in 2016. The home cost $650,000 and Nellis currently receives a $5,000 per month housing stipend.

The Board of Trustees will also vote on a resolution this week that would approve Ohio U to spend $1.5 million for the design and construction of renovations at the Konneker Alumni Center, which is near Park Place off of University Terrace.

Funds to purchase the building were donated to the Ohio U Foundation in 1980 by Dr. Wilfred and Ann Lee Konneker.

The center is currently owned by the Ohio University Foundation, but according to the meeting’s agenda, the money for renovations would come from general university funding.

The proposed project budget allows for $150,000 of the $1.5 million to be spent on design. The remainder will be spent on construction if approved.

The board is also expected to provide feedback on currently drafted plans.

Similar to the President’s Residence, ADA accessibility and fire access are primary goals of the renovation.

Editor’s Note: The story has been updated to provide further context and clarity.

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