The House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee on Wednesday approved a nearly $500 million plan to renovate the State Office Building.
Members adopted a resolution by voice vote, with some dissension, that sets the renovation process in motion for the structure where House members and staff have their offices, hold most of their meetings and is also home to several other state offices and legislative entities.
[MORE: View the design presentation]
The resolution reads, in part, “… the State Office Building is no longer a functional structure for the public, its elected officials or their staff, and continued use of the State Office Building without substantial improvements and expansion places the public at risk; reduces the ability of the House of Representatives to fulfill its mission to the people of Minnesota; and erodes the structure of a significant historical building.”
As outlined in the resolution, project costs would be covered by all entities:
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) said the redesign, which would add about 166,000 square feet to the existing 290,000-square-foot structure would maintain the “status quo” for member offices but would make the new building safer and more secure.
He said the additions are “almost entirely public space” that would consist of conference and hearing rooms along with access points “for the public to be involved in the legislative process.”
Several Republicans acknowledged the building needs work but raised objections to the project cost —greater than the recent State Capitol renovation — and what they believe is the rushed nature of the approval process.
Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) said the cost seems exorbitant.
“I ran the numbers and it’s $498,763,904, plus [the resolution] leaves some open-ended spending for things,” Nash said. “… It’s going to likely nudge north of half a billion dollars. Why didn’t we work through that more diligently?”
Nash said Republicans didn’t see the resolution until 7 a.m. Wednesday and wondered why they weren’t given more time to examine the information before the vote.
Winkler said the House has “had ample opportunity” for many years to address the needs of the building and that the Department of Administration had made several bonding requests that had not been approved even as costs continued to rise.
“Politically, nobody has had the will to do it,” Winkler said.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said the cost is “far beyond what I was expecting and it’s actually shocking.” He asked Winkler, who chairs the committee, to slow the process down.
“I would suggest we take a deep breath here and go through a more transparent process,” Daudt said.
During a meeting Monday, the committee received a presentation on building’s current condition and the deficiencies a remodel would hope to solve. Winkler said then that a 2021 law allowed the Department of Administration to present a plan the building’s major tenant, the House of Representatives, could then “sign off on” to put the process in motion.
He said action is needed now because statutory authority to let the bonds that would pay for the work expires in 2023, and the project would have to be fully designed before the bonds are sold, which typically happens at the end of the summer.
Work is expected to begin next summer. Winkler said Monday the House would likely be displaced during at least one legislative session during the project.