Machen may leave president's mansion
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 11:27 p.m.
Gainesville's first family is house hunting.
University of Florida President Bernie Machen and his wife, Chris, are negotiating to buy a home near the president's mansion, sources close to the transaction say.
The Machens, presumably, are in search of some silence - away from noisy traffic barreling down W. University Avenue and SW 2nd Avenue next to his current house - and privacy.
Sources say the Machens are set on a Mediterranean-style retreat off NW 8th Avenue that will come open in about 18 months when the homeowners leave the country for other opportunities. If he moves, he will be the first president to not live in the president's mansion since it was built in 1953.
Machen would not comment, but Jane Adams, UF vice president of university relations, acknowledged the Machens' interest in the home.
"The Machens are looking at a private residence, but have not purchased the house," she said.
The homeowners would not comment, as no deal has been completed.
Board of trustees Chairman Manny Fernandez said Machen informed him that he and Chris were looking around.
Fernandez said he believes the purchase signals Machen's long-term commitment to the Gainesville area.
"Obviously, they would like to be able to purchase a house so they would feel more at home," Fernandez said.
The two-bedroom, three-bath home of interest to the Machens was listed with a Realtor about three months ago for about $850,000, Realtors said.
Jane Myers with Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish, who visited the home during an open house, described the estate as "spectacular." She said the homeowners had added numerous extras such as French doors and granite kitchen counters.
The property also has a pool and entertainment area.
"It'll blow your socks off," Myers said. "It's something out of 'Architectural Digest.' "
When Machen was president of the University of Utah, he and Chris owned a getaway house in the Wasatch Mountains, about an hour outside of Salt Lake City, according to published reports.
Machen told the Deseret News, "It's just a place to get away from the phones."
Other university presidents around the country have sought more private accommodations as well.
University of Georgia President Michael Adams and his wife recently bought a $650,000 home in Athens.
Adams' wife, Mary, apparently, had suffered a stroke and needed a place away from commotion for her recovery.
Adams described his life at the university-owned mansion like "living in a fishbowl."
The Machens' current home, whose upkeep is paid entirely by the university, was renovated in 2003 under the direction of Judy Young, the wife of former President Charles Young.
The home would continue to be used for receptions and dinner parties, Fernandez said. The residence areas could be used for overnight stays.
The university would not be responsible for paying for any part of the Machens' new house, he said.
Machen's contract will have to be amended to make way for any purchase.
As it is now, he is "required to reside in the university-owned residence," the contract states.
The Machens also are required to open up the home on a regular basis for business and entertainment.
Fernandez said he does not consider the contract obligation a major hurdle.
"I can hardly imagine anyone would have a problem with that," Fernandez said.
Janine Young Sikes can be reached at 337-0327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article