UBC spends $614k on renovations to president’s home

UBC has spent $614,000 on renovations to Norman Mackenzie House, President Gupta’s official residence.

“We did a range of renewal and upgrade work to key building systems … as you would normally do when you have new tenants moving into a building,” said John Metras, managing director of UBC Infrastructure Development.

The information was released after a Freedom of Information request was filed by 24 Hours Vancouver, who received an anonymous letter earlier this year suggesting a closer examination of the renovation costs.

The total figure includes $10,000 on four flat screen TVs, $90,000 on sound system upgrades and $20,000 on patio furniture, but excludes $37,000 for the lease of a 2014 Honda Hybrid car. According to Metras, the budget for the project was actually $700,000.

“We get the opportunity [to renovate] once every eight to 10 years when the presidency turns over, and it is a very typical investment,” said Metras. “This is an important asset for the university -- we use it heavily for university events involving students, faculty, staff, donors, visiting dignitaries. So it’s important that we keep it in good repair. As a public asset, it’s our responsibility as caretakers of public assets to ensure they’re in good condition.”

When asked whether this expenditure was justified given the current fiscal situation of the university, Metras responded that “it’s absolutely essential to invest in our facilities and infrastructure. We do a lot of work every year, we spend anywhere between 20 and 30 million dollars on renovation and upgrade work to bring systems to modern standards.”

According to Metras, the last renovation to Norman Mackenzie House was completed in 2006 and the cost was "a little bit higher" than this time around.

"The investment that we made is the typical amount that you would expect given the age of the building the period of time since the last upgrade," said Metras, noting that the majority of the renovations were done in the public portions of the house.