This summer there will be two Oval Offices in the White House complex, and it won’t be a case of double vision.
In preparation for a major, two-year renovation of the West Wing, the government is undertaking extensive work to complete a new executive office for President Obama at the south end of the adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building, RCP has learned.
The president’s facsimile Oval Office, created as a nearly identical replica of the most famous ovoid room in the world, is slated to be ready for occupancy by August if Obama is ready to move and if design challenges are resolved. The build-out of the new “West Wing quarters” inside the Eisenhower building has begun, but unforeseen construction hurdles may alter plans for the eventual placement of the new office inside the EEOB, according to several knowledgeable sources.
The timing of Obama’s move to a substitute executive suite is in part dependent on the president’s readiness to begin working in the temporary quarters for what could be as long as two years, sources told RCP. The West Wing phase of a larger, $376 million project begun in September 2010 was put on pause through last year’s election, although funding and contracts were ready, the sources said. If Mitt Romney had won in November, Obama would have handed decisions about whether and how to proceed with the rehab project to his successor, they added.
Since the Oval Office was added to the White House in 1909 (during the Taft administration), decades of repairs, redecoration and technological add-ons have been layered atop an antique foundation — meaning that other presidents have been inconvenienced in this fashion.
Herbert Hoover, for example, had to make significant repairs after an electrical fire in 1929, and relocated for a brief time across the street to the secretary of the Navy’s office. Sources described how Obama’s West Wing rehab will tackle a down-to-the-studs overhaul of America’s iconic seat of power.
Though Obama won’t be the first modern president to work in an executive suite nearby, he has described the Oval Office as a “surprisingly comfortable” place in which to get real work done, and he lauds his 70-yard walk from home to office as one of the perks of his position.
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