The $50 million overhaul of Nicollet Mall appears to be back on track after Minneapolis secured five bids Tuesday to reconstruct the pedestrian corridor.

The project suffered a hiccup in December when only one firm submitted an offer, which was $24 million over budget. Planners reined in costs by breaking the contract into pieces, nixing costly concrete pavers and unloading transit shelter costs onto Metro Transit.

“I’m just thrilled to death,” said Steve Kotke, the city’s director of public works. “After what happened in December, I was a little bit nervous. But it looks like this time around it worked very well.”

Utility work, which is technically separate from the redesign, has already begun on the mall. Construction on the overhaul itself is expected to begin this year and finish around November 2017.

In addition to a more dynamic pavement design, the new Nicollet Mall, designed by the firm James Corner Field Operations, will feature an array of mini-attractions including a mirror canopy, woodsy seating areas and special lighting.

Tuesday’s bids for the pavement and streetscape, the largest chunk of the project, ranged from $27.2 million to $38.7 million. Separately on Tuesday, a City Council committee moved forward with a $608,000 contract for landscaping on the mall.

City spokesman Casper Hill said the city has yet to solicit bids for one final component of the project, street furniture. And Tuesday’s streetscape bids must still be evaluated and certified.

“We are happy to have multiple bids,” Hill said. “It appears that we’ll be able to work within the project budget.”

The construction of the mall, including pavement, landscaping and furniture, is expected to cost $35 million. The remainder of the $50 million budget for the project pays for design fees, construction management and public art.

The project is being paid for largely by assessments on nearby property owners and state bonding money.

The bidders for the primary work were Meyer Contracting, Morcon Construction, Thomas & Sons Construction, C.S. McCrossan and Shafer Contracting.

Shafer submitted the lowest base bid, but the final decision on a contractor will depend on whether the city pursues several alternate plans for better finishes on the concrete. Firms submitted additional cost estimates for adding more sidewalk joints and stenciled patterns and topping certain areas with more interesting aggregate.

While Morcon’s lone December bid was $58 million, Kotke said it was not reflective of the true cost of the project. That prompted the city to split the project into smaller contracts — easier for contractors to tackle — to draw lower bids.

“It’s not like we cut $20 million worth of things out of the project. We didn’t,” Kotke said. “I think really the key of what we did was we really made this a more attractive project for contractors to bid on.”

Kotke said some contractors who did not bid previously would have had to hire subcontractors to install the concrete pavers, for example. The pavers were ultimately nixed in favor of cheaper and simpler poured concrete. “That was a huge factor,” Kotke said.

Metro Transit also agreed to pickup the cost of installing a dozen transit shelters, freeing up about $4 million in the project.


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