Construction on the distinctive pool and waterfall fountain outside the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis is continuing this fall, following delays caused by one of the wettest Septembers on record.
Work on the $3.5 million renovation project, which began in May, was initially expected to be completed by September. Crews now expect to finish re-waterproofing the pool, replacing the oculus glass on the lower level and reinstalling fountains by mid-December, said Michael Sable, the county's director of facility services.
The ongoing construction meant that visitors and downtown workers couldn't sit on the pool's edge over the summer. But the area will reopen in the spring with double the outdoor seating.
"They are one of the few outdoor gathering places downtown, so it's important we keep it in good shape," Sable said of the Government Center's brick plaza on the north side and grassy park on the south.
The pool and fountain, the centerpiece of the north plaza, have caused problems for decades. Offices are located below the fountain, and leaks have sprung on the circular glass "curtain wall" around the oculus, which receives the waterfall.
Officials have said that the current repairs — the second time these specific repairs have been made in the Government Center's 42-year history — will last for 30 years.
The county had considered replacing the pool and waterfall instead of spending thousands on patchwork repairs. In 2012, a task force recommended removing the pool and waterfall and doing other improvements at a cost of $2.6 million. The panel also considered turning the pool into a planter for $500,000, but that option left open the possibility of leakage below.
Last year, officials discussed replacing or repurposing the pool, but opted for repairs because they're less expensive and preserved the architect's design.
Hosting the farmers market
As part of the renovation, crews have built two new pedestrian ramps on the north edge of the plaza, replaced cracked granite and repaired retaining walls. And in a separate project, the county is replacing the revolving doors at the building's entrance.
An estimated 10,000 people pass daily through the Government Center. With the Downtown East area rapidly developing only a couple blocks away, the north and south plazas are expected to become even more popular.
The Minneapolis Farmers Market, which moved this year to the south plaza during Nicollet Mall construction, is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays until Nov. 10, weather-dependent. Sable said the county is exploring whether to move the market to the north plaza next year, because it gets more traffic next to the light-rail station.
The several hundred residents who are called to jury duty each day also will enjoy new quarters at the Government Center.
In a $2.3 million project, the county is moving the assembly room where jurors check in and meet from the basement to the "penthouse" — the top 24th floor — for a modern, "nicer environment for people who have to serve," Sable said.
The jury room, which opens Dec. 9, is taking over space from the county law library, which has been renovated in a smaller space next door.