December 8, 2016
An unexpected proposal to spend $4.6 million to restore the University of Michigan's historic Inglis House did not move forward at Thursday's Board of Regents meeting.
Regent Katherine E. White introduced the supplemental agenda item as a tribute to Regent Laurence B. Deitch, who is ending his 24-year tenure on the board. Along with its $4.6 million estimated cost, the proposal included recurring operating expenses estimated at $530,000.
After a lengthy discussion, the item stalled on a 4-4 vote.
Inglis House, constructed in 1927 and surrounded by 8.5 acres of gardens and meadows, sits near campus and adjacent to the Nichols Arboretum. In 1951, U-M received the property as a gift from the Inglis family.
In the past, the house has been used to host high-profile events at U-M as well as to entertain distinguished visitors. Past guests include President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford, the Dalai Lama and former Gov. John Engler.
In the proposal, White said the project would return the house and grounds to service as a rentable space for university meetings, receptions, retreats and formal dinners. It would also make the first floor of the three-story house accessible to people with disabilities, modernize the kitchen, address deferred maintenance work and restore the landscape.
Regent Mark J. Bernstein, who voted against the measure, said he found it incumbent for the regents to engage in a measured, thoughtful and deliberate assessment of the proposal. He said the project is not central to his priority of making U-M affordable for students.
Regent Michael J. Behm agreed with Bernstein, saying the funds would be money better spent on lowering the costs of attending U-M. He also noted the project consisted of a "bare bones" renovation, and that only one floor of the home would become accessible to those with disabilities.
Deitch, who voted in favor of the project, said the idea of selling the Inglis House property has come up in the past. He said he could not figure out why the restoration project is the one to break "the camel's back."
"I don't think that we ought to sell property in the city of Ann Arbor," Deitch said.
Before the vote, White said without the regents' approval, Inglis House would fall into further disrepair. She said deciding to not go forward with renovations would be a decision to allow the property to "crumble."
Voting in favor of the project were Regents Deitch, Denise Ilitch, Shauna Ryder-Diggs and White. Voting against the proposal were Regents Behm, Bernstein, Andrea Fischer Newman and Andrew Richner.
In light of the tie vote, the regents can consider the project at a later date.