The ballooning cost of the renovation for the headquarters of the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was the target of angry criticism from Republican lawmakers this week, who observed that the lavish project is on track to cost significantly more per square foot than new-construction private projects like New York’s Trump Tower and Las Vegas’ Bellagio.
“You are spending more per square foot than the Trump World Tower” Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) told CFPB director Richard Cordray at a hearing for the House Committee on Financial Services. “You are spending more than the Bellagio Hotel and Casino.”
Evidently, Hensarling’s not exaggerating. The Hill reported the CFPB renovation’s per-square-foot cost of more than $590 to be far in excess of “Trump World Tower in New York ($334) and Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas ($330).”
The still-young CFPB, created in 2010 as part of the sweeping Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, has so far committed somewhere between $114 million and $145 million to the renovation, a sum that’s “nearly as much as the building is worth,” according to the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard. The total project cost is expected to hit at least $215 million.
Plans for the project include a rooftop play area for kids, a four-story glass staircase, a sunken garden and a two-story waterfall — all features that gave House Republicans ample fodder with which to excoriate the agency.
“The cost of renovating the CFPB’s rented headquarters has spiraled to more than $215 million — $65 million more than the agency’s estimate just six months ago and $120 million more than last year’s estimate, according to the Federal Reserve’s Inspector General,” House Republicans said in a statement this week.
“The continuously growing price tag is a tremendous waste of funds and, amazingly, there is still no assurance the $215 million price tag won’t grow higher,” added Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).
Hensarling decried the Federal agency’s apparent autonomy from fiscal checks and balances.
“When they passed the Dodd-Frank Act, Democrats in Congress and the White House made the CFPB unaccountable to taxpayers and to Congress. We’re seeing the results of this dangerous unaccountability today in a Washington bureaucracy that is running amok, spending as much as it wants on whatever it wants. It’s outrageous,” he wrote in the GOP statement.
McHenry, who chairs the House Financial Services subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, requested an inspector general’s report on the runaway project in January; the results of that endeavor can be viewed here.