State Office Building renovation and expansion to start next month despite growing cost
Minnesota House Republicans have raised questions for years about the cost of renovating the State Office Building, but there’s nothing standing in the way of the project beginning next month. That’s despite the cost increasing from an estimated $288 million three years ago to $454 million now, with another $275 million in interest payments bringing the cost to a possible $729 million.
“Can I give you a dollar amount right now to tell you what it should be? No, but I can tell you $729 million with both the bonds and the interest over 20 years is too much to be spending on an office building for 134 legislators,” says House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring.
The building also houses legislative staff, the Minnesota Secretary of State and others.
Supporters of the renovation say while from outward appearances the building looks sound, they point to cracks in walls and ceilings, aging pipes and electrical systems and a failing HVAC system that once resulted in a flood that sent water cascading onto six floors of the building.
“We have a building that’s crumbling,” says House Majority Leader Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis. “It has had leaks and floods and mold problems. We had a rating done of the entire building that showed that the roof, the plumbing and the HVAC were all in poor condition.”
The cost also includes a major expansion to the north for new public hearing rooms and other public accommodations.
“We don’t have ADA-accessible hearing rooms and so the entire new section of the building is going to be public space,” Long adds.
Still, Demuth wonders why the project will cost so much more than the $310 million renovation of the State Capitol and construction of a new $90 million Senate Office Building. She suggests looking for empty space in existing buildings for new office and hearing space.
“I think we really need to reimagine what we’re doing rather than expand it to this extent,” she says.
That’s unlikely because $454 million in bonds have been sold and construction is set to begin in December.