The University of Minnesota is planning a $286,000 roof replacement for Eastcliff, the residence of its presidents.

The project includes replacing cedar shingles on the main and carriage houses, fixing gutters and downspouts and repairing masonry chimneys, according to standards for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Board of Regents approved the work this week.

Regent Dean Johnson, chairman of the facilities committee, said that he was initially taken aback by the price tag but became convinced that "there are certain circumstances that lend themselves to the cost."

Lyndel King, chair of the Eastcliff Technical Advisory Committee, said that the project must be done soon to preserve "an important ceremonial center to the university," which hosts about 7,500 visitors a year. She told a regents committee Wednesday that "every time there's a big storm, Eastcliff staff have been going around picking up shingles."

The roof was last replaced in 1999, but a chemical used for fireproofing eroded the staples used, said Mike Berthelsen, associate vice president for facilities management. "The roof is, at this point, being held on by gravity and friction," he said.

This time, the university will require a 20-year warranty, at least, he said. The U plans to accept a bid later this month, according to a request for proposals, and the contractor is expected to complete the project by Sept. 30.

The work will be paid for with U maintenance funds. Other projects on the house are sometimes financed by Friends of Eastcliff Committee, which directs outside fundraising. But "roofs are not popular with donors," King told the regents Wednesday.

Repairing Eastcliff can be politically tricky. In 1988, controversy over Eastcliff remodeling that swelled to twice its budgeted cost helped end Ken Keller's presidency.

"Places like this for some strange reason seem to get a lot of attention from the Legislature," said Regent David Larson. He recommended having a "well-outlined and understood rationale."

"The strategy was to place it on the agenda along with the alcohol issue so that it would take second place to that," Johnson joked, referring to Wednesday's vote on serving beer at TCF Bank Stadium.

"But you're exactly right," Johnson said more seriously. "That's why we want to do this correctly and with full disclosure."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168