Obama May Move Into Temporary Oval Office
They’re planning some renovation work at the White House that may result in the President temporarily moving into a different Oval Office:
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
Workers are building what will become a temporary blast-proof, secure VIP visitors’ entrance to the granite EEOB behemoth, which already houses most of what is known as the Executive Office of the President. The new, secure gate — slated to be operable by June — is intended to become an entryway for VIP guests, akin to the existing West Wing lobby, sources told RCP.
Because the Oval Office is an internationally renowned symbol of American power — and because considerable disruption is involved in transitioning out of the West Wing — the precise timing of the relocation and West Wing interior demolition is somewhat up in the air. “We have eight to 10 months to get ready,” one source said.
The president’s senior advisers, now squeezed into the coveted but cramped West Wing quarters, are expected to move with Obama across a narrow drive to the Eisenhower building.
The West Wing renovation is the latest phase of a significant project that resulted last year in the completion of a secret bunker-like facility deep underneath the White House driveway. The work also included construction under West Executive Drive, the private lane between the two buildings in the White House complex. The drive is ostensibly used as a VIP entrance for vehicles and as a parking lot.
Although officials described the excavation project completed last year in front of the West Wing lobby as an upgrade of air conditioning, plumbing and basic “infrastructure,” reporters chronicled the mysterious cavalcade of heavy trucks — their commercial identifiers covered over — as they deposited steel beams, huge pipes, concrete, electrical equipment and even a hot water heater into the cavernous hole.
RCP learned that the stand-in “Oval Office,” replicated in shape and Obama beige-ness, is being readied for occupancy within months. And a source pointed RCP to the construction of the new visitors’ entrance on 17th Street as evidence that an EEOB relocation project was under way in phases.
RCP also learned that the White House press corps and Obama press staff, currently working just steps from the Oval Office, would be impacted when construction crews and materials arrive. Obama’s press office staff will have to relocate, a source said.
Sounds like a fairly extensive project, although not nearly as extensive as when Harry Truman was required to spend much of his Presidency living across the street from the White House in Blair House while the main White House structure was essentially rebuilt from the inside out. We’d all love to know what that bunker’s all about though.