Work is nearly done on renovations to Tennessee’s governor’s mansion. The project has been heavily criticized for the addition of a new underground meeting space with room to seat 160 guests. That accounts for roughly half the project’s price tag of $18 million.
The 14 thousand square foot meeting area, called Conservation Hall, features an atrium for natural light, and a kitchen capable of preparing hors d’oeuvres for a reception of hundreds.
Some neighbors have complained bitterly about the construction, but First Lady Andrea Conte says she can’t fix that. She says the state needed a better place to host large groups than in tents on the lawn, as was typical until now.
“My goal was to make sure we constructed a proper meeting hall for the residence property – something that governors could use from this day forward, so they didn’t have to put up tents, they didn’t have to inconvenience their guests.”
Some in state government tried to halt the project, calling it a waste of taxpayer money. But Conte argues almost $9 million have been raised privately for the overall renovation, with more than $5 million specifically funding the meeting space.
The state footed about half of the total $18 million cost. Conte says much of the state’s money went toward accommodations for guests with disabilities.