UT president's mansion still not sold after big price cut

UT president's mansion still not sold after big price cut

August 5th, 2011 by The Knoxville News Sentinel in News

A "For Sale" sign is pictured at University of Tennessee president's house, 940 Cherokee Blvd., Friday, Mar. 5, 2010. As of October, the house had two appraisals, one for $3 million and one for $3.7 million. It will be sold through a sealed bid process as required by state law.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

It's a $2.9 million bargain - or at least University of Tennessee officials think so.

In March, a year after it went on the market, the price tag on the Georgian-style mansion in Sequoyah Hills that once served as the home to university presidents was slashed nearly in half from the original $5 million listing.

The mansion has been on the market for about 17 months and in the meantime, UT is spending $25,000 per year to maintain it and paying newly hired President Joe DiPietro a $20,000 allowance in lieu of living there. UT officials decided to put it on the market to reduce costs, officials said at the time.

"Piece of history"

Real estate agent Jim Ford, with Coldwell Banker Wallace & Wallace, shows the house to "qualified buyers," on average, once a month. His last showing was to a couple on July 22.

"This is going to sell to somebody wanting to buy a piece of history - because how many presidents' houses have you owned?" said Ford.

Even though there are more upscale homes for sale in the area than there are buyers who can afford them, Ford still thinks this home is a "unique" gem. He only shows it to buyers whom he knows or knows of, ensuring they have the means to purchase the house if interested. Any bids on the property have to be approved by the UT board of trustees and the State Building Commission, said UT spokeswoman Gina Stafford.

UT will keep any proceeds from the sale, and furniture inside the house, including a piano and dining table, could be auctioned off as surplus university property, said Stafford.

The 11,400-square-foot house, which sits on a three-acre waterfront lot in one of Knoxville's most prestigious neighborhoods, is steeped in history, Ford said. It was home to former Presidents Andy Holt, Ed Boling, John Shumaker and John Petersen, as well as UT Knoxville Chancellors John Quinn and Bill Snyder.

The house has thee floors and a finished basement, five bedrooms, four full bathrooms and two half baths. The house comes with an elevator, boat house, deck and garden.

The house has been appraised twice - once for $3 million and another time for $3.7 million.

Storm damage

In late April, storms toppled trees on the property causing $40,000 in damage. One tree that fell in the back took off a piece of the roof and damaged the gutters, said Ford. UT immediately repaired the damage, and it has been submitted to state officials as part of a larger insurance claim encompassing all UT storm damage, said Stafford. UT is self-insured through the state.

Shumaker raised eyebrows during his tenure from 2002 to 2003 when he spent almost $500,000 on renovations and furnishings, including the addition of a $4,822 gas grill and a $7,431 entertainment system.

Right now, the expense fund pays for utilities, the security system and lawn care, which is done by UT employees.