Dayton cool to plans for Minnesota Senate building

  • Article by: JENNIFER BROOKS and RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: November 20, 2013 - 11:38 PM

$90 million project has skylights, fitness center, glass facade and reflecting pool.


New Minnesota Senate building: natural light, reflecting pool

Plans for a controversial new Minnesota Senate building that would include a reflecting pool, skylights and a fitness center drew a cool response from Gov. Mark Dayton Wednesday.

“Any new building should be functional and modest,” Dayton told the Star Tribune. “And if it can be built for less than the amount allocated, it definitely should be.”

The $90 million project, included in the tax bill late in the session with little debate, already has drawn fire for its cost and how it was pushed through the Legislature. Republican criticism of the plan has been particularly sharp, and one former legislator is going to court to stop it.

New details of the gleaming, five-story building emerged after a two-day workshop last week. According to a draft design obtained by the Star Tribune, it would have many of the standard features of a modern legislative structure: offices for senators and staffers, parking ramps and hearing rooms.

But according to a report from the workshop, architects, designers and key legislators also debated elements such as roof skylights, the location of the gymnasium and a glass-enclosed walkway at street level.

The artist’s renderings show a glass facade that would arc away from University Avenue, providing senators’ new offices with majestic views of the marble Capitol across the street. The workshop report also notes that, “A shallow reflective pool at the plaza was also deemed appropriate by the group.”

The architects’ intent is to create a Senate building to complement the century-old Capitol without overshadowing it, according to the documents.

“Finishes should include native woods, and details should be allowed to be contemporary in nature, keeping in mind that this building would be subservient to the Capitol Building,” the workshop report noted.

The new building itself will cost $63 million, with the remainder for parking structures.

Amos Briggs, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, a supporter of the project, said the plans are not yet final.

“These drawings and models change day by day, based on cost limitations, tenant feedback and site restrictions,” Briggs said. A final design plan, he said, must be approved by House and Senate Rules committees.

Until now, senators have occupied offices in the Capitol and nearby State Office Building, which also houses state representatives.

During the session, Bakk, DFL-Cook, argued that the Senate needed its own space, with more room for staff and committee hearing rooms that can accommodate larger crowds.

“The intent is that the new, multiuse legislative building will provide large public meeting spaces that will allow more citizens to attend and participate in legislative hearings than ever before and include modern accommodations for the disabled community,” Briggs said. “Additionally, the new building will provide office space for senators and staff from both parties who would be permanently displaced as a result of the already underway restoration work on the State Capitol building.”

On that point at least, Dayton concurred.

“The bipartisan group of elected officials and citizens, who have been planning the Capitol renovation project, have consistently agreed that it should provide adequate space for the legislative process and citizen access to it for the next 100 years,” Dayton said Wednesday. “I would greatly prefer that senators’ offices be located outside of the Capitol building, and a new office building would be necessary to house them.”

Teams of designers and architects also have been meeting for months with lawmakers and staff from both parties and both houses to discuss the Senate construction plans.

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