Reporting Pat Kessler
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – The Minnesota State Capitol is about to get a new neighbor for the first time in decades.
Construction begins next year on a $89.5 million Senate Office Building located directly behind the Capitol.
It’s been a parking lot for many decades, but supporters say the new structure will not only be architecturally significant, but could even change the harsh political tone at the Capitol.
For example, State Capitol hearing rooms are so small that the lines to get inside sometimes stretch around the corners — the newer facility will relieve a lot of that pressure.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk’s vision is a building in which Republicans and Democrats office together for the first time in generations.
There will also be private offices for 37 State Senators and their staffs, complete with hearing rooms that seat up to 300 people.
The project was added to a controversial tax bill and got little notice at the time.
But its size and scope raises eyebrows from Republicans.
“It shows that in the last hours of session, the Democrats were focused on pay raises for legislators, paybacks for political allies and panoramic views from a new office building,” Minority Leader Rep. Kurt Daudt said.
Construction will be simultaneous with a major five-year renovation of the historic State Capitol.
Bakk, who is a carpenter by trade, wants a Senate Office Building as architecturally significant as the Capitol when it was built.
“I would really like … people to say that about it 100 years from now — that this is really a remarkable building that they built back in 2014,” Bakk said.
Bakk is hoping this new office building will be a public gathering space, too.
Unlike other government buildings with heavy stone and small windows, this one could have a four-story soaring glass wall overlooking the Capitol.