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State Capitol Renovation Enters Major Phase

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Call it the mother of all fixer-uppers.

If you’ve been watching the restoration of the Minnesota State Capitol recently, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The $272 million dollar renovation enters a major new phase this week, with most of the Capitol shut off from the public for the first time in its 109-year history.

At different times over the next three years, almost all of the Capitol, from the Rotunda east and west, will be closed to visitors.

Minnesota’s most visible public landmark is encased in scaffolding seven stories high.

Hundreds of workers are repairing cracked and sugared stones and decades-old windows.

But it’s inside where there’s really a dramatic transformation.

“It’s really a significant portion of the building is now under construction,” Wayne Waslaski, the project manager for the massive renovation from the Minnesota Department of Administration, said.

The spectacular Capitol rotunda will soon be off limits.

Wooden barriers are already up and statues shrouded in plastic.

Public hallways sealed and stairways closed.

“We are bringing a lot of areas back to the original 1905 design,” Waslaski said. “You’re going to see a combination of new infrastructure that’s behind walls, and you’ll see some restoration of some areas back to the 1905 design.”

The Capitol is now almost completely empty of tenants.

The Governor’s office moved to a building on the south mall.

The Attorney General is taking up residence in a St. Paul office tower while the massive project is underway.

Most of the $272 million renovation is not visible.

Including a new roof and new mechanical systems; plumbing and electrical.

The House and Senate chambers are open until next spring.

Some of the last tour groups watching the Capitol shutdown say they understand.

“I’m sure you have to up keep the building or eventually it will crumble like a Roman ruin,” Greg McNeill of Burnsville, who was touring the building with his daughter, said. “So clearly something has got to be done periodically.”

This top to bottom renovation will take years to finish, though.

The target date for re-opening is 2017.

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