Two years ago, the proposed Minnesota Senate Building was an object of politically effective Republican derision. On Monday, the completed structure was an object of bipartisan admiration by 47 former state senators who attended an open house and end-of-session farewell observance for the current occupants.
Even a sitting Republican had a good word to say about the University Avenue structure. “It has served us very well,” said Sen. David Senjem of Rochester.
That it has — and that experience should silence critics of adding the $90 million structure to the State Capitol complex. With the Capitol closed for construction all year save for the House chamber, it’s hard to imagine how the 2016 Legislature could have functioned if the Senate had been meeting in a different temporary setting, more removed from the House and less suited to interaction with the public.
Just being across the street from the House was trouble enough during the session’s crucial final hours, when every minute of travel time between the two chambers was precious. A few House members confessed in private whispers that the House would have been better served had it accepted the Senate’s offer to vacate the Capitol and operate floor sessions in the new building — thereby reducing Capitol construction time and costs and allowing for more normal interaction between legislators and with the public.
If the Capitol project proceeds apace, both of its lawmaking chambers will be back in use by the 2017 Legislature. But the functional, handsome Minnesota Senate Building will continue to serve legislators and the public well, putting Senate offices under one roof for the first time since legislators acquired their own offices in 1975. That’s a welcome change that ought no longer be faulted as extravagant or wasteful.