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Published: Saturday, 5/15/2004

Foundation spends $1.1 million to buy home for BGSU leader

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green State University President Sidney Ribeau has a new place he can call home.

The BGSU Foundation yesterday voted to spend $1.1 million to buy about 19 acres in the southwest part of the city. The property includes a house that will be used by the university president and is intended to be an upgrade for living and fund-raising.

The foundation's board agreed to buy the property at 700 South Wintergarden Rd. in two parcels - a 5.74-acre parcel containing the two-story brick house at a cost of $750,000, and an adjacent, undeveloped parcel of 13.36 acres that borders the Stone Ridge Golf Club for $350,000.

The Wood County auditor's office estimates the total market value at a little under $900,000, and lists the owner as Jill Maddox Hanna.

The money for the purchase will come from the foundation's unrestricted operating budget, officials said.

The board's decision comes during challenging fiscal times at BGSU, which last week boosted tuition and fees by 9 percent and approved a budget with $4 million in personnel cuts. Still, George Mylander, foundation chairman, said the move was responsible, even essential.

"There is never a good time for a project such as this," he said. "There will never be enough money. In the long run, this will be a true asset to the university."

For well over a year, BGSU officials have been searching for improved conditions for the president to live in and host fund-raising events. Mr. Ribeau moved out of the university-owned house at 625 Hillcrest Dr. in November, 2002, and into a condominium on Larchwood Drive so architects could devise a plan to renovate or rebuild the home.

Doug Smith, foundation president and BGSU vice president of university advancement, said the excessive cost of such a plan became apparent during a long, thoughtful investigation.

But not before the university amassed bills of more than $170,000 on architectural and related services and subsidizing the condominium that Mr. Ribeau moved into and later bought.

Last week, the BGSU board of trustees voted to sell the smaller home on Hillcrest, which was purchased in 1963 for $49,500. The proceeds from the sale will go toward the cost of the new property, to be known as University House. It will be leased to the university, Mr. Smith said.

At the University of Toledo, the presidential home sits on 1.9 acres in Ottawa Hills. It

bought the property in 1989 for $450,000. The house was built in 1920.

BGSU's University House was built in 1991 and has four bedrooms, 5 1/2 bathrooms, and a swimming pool. The auditor's office lists it as having 5,165 square feet of livable space, but Mr. Smith said Realtors have said it contains 7,200 square feet.

Mr. Mylander said it will be just about perfect for meeting BGSU's needs by providing more room for entertaining and divided space for private living.

Mr. Ribeau could not be reached for comment yesterday, but in a statement said: "I'm quite comfortable with my current living accommodations, but I believe it was very strategic and gracious of the foundation to make this purchase on behalf of the university."

He indicated he would be happy to be the first president to live in the house. He is expected to move in sometime in 2005.

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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