President Donald Trump’s first-ever grand renovation project at his Mar‑a-Largo resort is being challenged by his critics who say it is costing more than it is worth and is a major drain on public resources.
The White House and Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said Tuesday they have not yet decided whether the project, which was approved by Congress in 2015, will move forward, a sign of mounting concern about the impact it will have on the president’s image and on his presidency.
The project, dubbed The Mar-A-Lago Project, is expected to cost about $7.5 billion.
It includes renovations to two historic structures and an outdoor plaza, plus landscaping and lighting upgrades, according to a White House memo to staff.
It also includes more than $1 billion in state and local assistance to improve facilities at the club, which has hosted presidents since it opened in 2005.
The project has been plagued by delays and concerns about whether the president will use the funds for other projects that he has already ordered, including his controversial border wall.
Trump’s spokesman said the president would be making his decision on whether to spend the funds soon, although he did not elaborate.
A spokeswoman for Trump’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The president is also planning to open a private retreat at the estate, which he has called a great asset.
It will include a spa, meeting rooms, a ballroom and a tennis court, according the memo to staffers.
But critics say the project will be a drain on the local economy, hampering the tourism industry and potentially driving away locals.
“This is an embarrassment to the presidency.
It’s a disgrace to the president.
It is a disgrace for the people of Mar-ae-Lago,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, a Democrat from Iowa, who is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
“This project is not going to help the local community, it’s not going do anything for tourism, it is going to take money away from the people who have been here for decades and will be hurting.”
The Mar-as-Lago project is the first major White House project since the end of the Obama administration that has been criticized by Republican critics.
In addition to the $1.5 million for the spa, the president is expected in mid-October to spend $2 million on renovations to the club’s main dining hall, which is also home to a small restaurant, the Palm Beach Post reported.