Governor Deval Patrick, who sparked criticism early in his first term for spending $27,000 on new drapes and other furnishings for his State House office, has authorized a $9 million project to dramatically upgrade the office before he leaves in 2014.
The governor’s aides say that unlike the 2007 makeover, which was focused on cosmetic touches like new damask drapes and a new settee, this renovation will largely benefit his successor and is intended to broaden public access to the historic suite and to repair cracked walls, drafty windows, and aging heating, cooling, and plumbing systems.
Aides say the governor’s office, on the fourth floor of the State House, has not been substantially overhauled in decades. Construction will begin in January and is slated for completion in August. Patrick steps down in January.
“The governor and his staff will be in this space for a maximum of four or five months before we move out,” said Heather Johnson, a Patrick spokeswoman. “This is really about long-term preservation that’s overdue, preserving the building for everyone to enjoy in the Commonwealth, and for the next administration to enjoy and to take office with a 21st-century space. That really doesn’t exist at this point.”
But Bruce E. Tarr, the Senate Republican leader, said he was concerned that Patrick is choosing to upgrade his office when there are so many other pressing needs across the state.
“Certainly, the governor has argued passionately that we have a lot of unmet capital needs, whether it be building new commuter rail lines or upgrading roads and bridges,” Tarr said. “So the question is, what needs to be addressed first and what needs to be addressed later.”
Nevertheless, the renovation is a sign that Patrick, in the twilight of his tenure, no longer worries about the kind of political backlash he ignited during his rocky first year in office, when he ended up repaying the state for his office furnishings and defraying the cost of a Cadillac that he leased as his official vehicle.
Back then, the drapes and the Cadillac were seen as emblems of extravagance as Patrick was entering office and asking his agency heads to make cuts to help close a $1 billion deficit. This project, by contrast, calls for unglamorous, though costly, items like energy-efficient windows, wheelchair ramps, sprinklers, security cameras, and new phone and Internet lines.
The chief of staff’s office will be knocked down and moved to a new space on the fourth floor, allowing tour groups to walk onto a balcony overlooking Beacon Street. That was the layout for the office when the State House was first designed by Charles Bulfinch in the late 18th century.
The project will be closely monitored by the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
During construction, Patrick will have to leave his handsomely appointed suite and work from a relatively spartan office half its size on the second floor of the State House. That office is currently occupied by the governor’s chief legal counsel, Kate Cook. She and other aides will be moved into temporary offices elsewhere.
The $9 million cost of the project comes from the state’s capital budget, which is funded by about $2 billion in annual borrowing. It is part of a multiyear, $110 million renovation of the State House, which was completed in 1798 and is among the country’s oldest. The renovation has already included repairs to the roof and exterior, as well as installation of a lightning rod in the iconic golden dome.
To bolster its case, the Patrick administration released 13 photos Friday of the governor’s office in various states of disrepair. They show carpets littered with plaster chips, paint peeling from the ceiling, and telephone lines sprouting from a hole in the wall.
“The State House itself is a really important, historic piece of Massachusetts and hasn’t been worked on like this in 100 years,” Johnson said. “It’s long overdue.”