Updated: 02/06/2014 7:41 AM
Created: 02/05/2014 7:02 PM KSTP.com
By: Tom Hauser
You could call it the biggest basement finishing project in state history.
The Minnesota State Capitol is undergoing a $273 million renovation from the basement through three floors above on the interior. There's also work going on outside to refinish the intricate stone work on the Capitol exterior.
When it's all done, the basement might end up being the hidden gem that gets uncovered. The basement was home to the Capitol Press Corps, a small post office and various functions of the Minnesota Senate. It was mostly just narrow hallways with doorways to various offices and storage spaces, bu that's all about to change.
"We're opening up the basement," Wayne Waslaski of the Department of Administration said. "We think it will be one of the highlights of the renovation project for the public."
The narrow hallways will be gone as walls are demolished and give way to nearly 80,000 square feet of space. When it's done, it will include expanded seating for the Capitol cafeteria and major circular open space that will in some ways mimic a hearing room one floor above and the rotunda two floors up.
There will also be a new press conference room for legislators and new space for the Capitol Press Corps.
The basement and exterior renovations are just the first phase of work on the 109-year old building.
The entire Capitol is scheduled to be done by December 2016. Of course, that's assuming the legislature approves the final $126 million of the $273 million project during the 2014 session.