A controversial $1.3 million purchase of an off-campus home for East Carolina University’s chancellor has been finalized.
The ECU Foundation completed the purchase of a home in the Star Hill Farm in Greenville. The 8,400-square-foot home sits on 5.2 acres of land about three miles from ECU’s campus. Real estate websites describe the home as having six bedrooms and either seven or nine baths, and a five-car garage. Aerial photographs show a swimming pool and formal gardens surrounding the home, which was designed by noted architect William Harvey, according to ECU.
It will be the home of Cecil Staton, who was hired as chancellor in 2016.
The purchase had been criticized on social media and by some officials, including Harry Smith, vice chairman of the UNC Board of Governors. An ECU graduate, Smith said in an interview that the house exudes “aristocracy” in a poor area of the state.
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The original plan was to renovate the chancellor’s existing home, the historic Dail House, which was built in 1930. That option had been in the works for years, as the university bought several adjacent homes, which were intended for demolition in order to expand the Dail House. The house is on Fifth Street, across the street from campus.
ECU officials said the cost of the expansion was $3.5 million due to the age of the house, asbestos and other code issues. The house did not conform with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The purchased home in Star Hill Farm will be suitable for entertaining donors, officials said.
“The ECU Foundation is excited to have acquired this wonderful property,” said Chris Dyba, vice chancellor for university advancement and president of the ECU Foundation. “We are very grateful to the owner, because he allowed us to purchase his home at a price significantly below its appraised and replacement value. We believe this purchase will provide ECU a wonderful residence for its chancellor and a great venue to host functions for alumni, donors, students, corporate leaders and top candidates for ECU leadership.”
No date for move-in for the Chancellor has been set. The ECU Board of Trustees has begun a review of the Dail House, along with surrounding properties, and will make a recommendation about its best use for the university.
In recent years, UNC campuses have moved their leaders out of historic homes to new properties. N.C. State built an 8,500-square-foot home for its chancellor with $3 million in donations. It was completed in 2011. Last year, the UNC Greensboro Endowment Fund purchased a house for the UNC-G chancellor for $1.65 million.