Board to approve Eastcliff renovations

Upgrades to the University president’s official residence are expected to reach $550,000.
Eastcliff, the official residence of the university president since 1911, will undergo renovations this spring. Current President Bruininks and his wife, Susan Hagstrum, have lived in the St. Paul residence since December of 2002.
November 11, 2010

When Dr. Susan Hagstrum moved into Eastcliff in December 2002, the house at 176 North Mississippi River Boulevard was not unfamiliar to her. Growing up in St. Paul, she would bike past the white manor, never imagining that one day she’d live there.

“The house is bigger than any other houses around it,” Hagstrum said. “I used to think a princess lived there.”

Eastcliff is the official residence of the University of Minnesota president. Hagstrum has lived there with her husband, University President Bob Bruininks, for eight years and finds it hard to believe their time at Eastcliff is coming to an end.

The couple’s departure at the end of Bruininks’ term as president in June will spur a handful of renovation projects for the next president.

On Thursday, the Eastcliff Technical Advisory Committee is proposing three projects to the Board of Regents — the first major renovations since the 1990s. The plans include installing a small kitchen on the second floor where the president and his family live, and repairing the summerhouse and patio around the pool.

The ETAC estimated the cost of the projects at $550,000. The Brooks family, which owns the property, will cover 60 percent of the expenses. The remaining 40 percent will come from other private donors.

Proposed changes will be made immediately after the president and his wife leave Eastcliff in the spring.

“We have been talking about [the plans] for a long time, but this is the first time that it is being brought forward for approval,” ETAC chairman Lyndel King said. “There has never been a good time to do it before.”

“[The Brooks family] didn’t tell us what they wanted,” King said. “We showed them the designs and they were perfectly happy with them.”

The Brooks family was not the only group to have a say in the Eastcliff renovations. Since the property is on the National Register of Historic Places, the ETAC was required to get approval from the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office.

The office does a design review when historic properties are being rehabilitated and will work with designers at the University to make sure the changes are appropriate, Mary Ann Heidemann, manager of government programs and compliance, said. Once a written agreement is reached, any changes to the original plan could violate state law.

These regulations were implemented under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as a way to protect historic sites from destruction or poor caretaking.

Hagstrum said living in Eastcliff has been an “honor and privilege,” as well as a responsibility. The house hosted more than 8,000 guests last year.

“I try to be very careful here because everything about this place is precious. We try to live carefully and respectfully.”

Among the things Hagstrum will miss most are the garden and the artwork loaned to them by the Weisman Art Museum.

Once they leave Eastcliff, Hagstrum and Bruininks will move to an apartment in downtown Minneapolis.

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