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Associated Press, Published June 11 2013

New building to rise in Minn. Capitol's shadow

ST. PAUL — A rapid construction timetable surrounds a new legislative office building in the shadow of Minnesota's Capitol, which is about to undergo a renovation of its own.

State lawmakers authorized the four-story building and a nearby parking ramp. The office project was included with little debate in a broader tax package and there was $3 million set aside for planning. It will be used by state senators and their staffs, a companion to a separate office building now used mainly by the House.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/17Dxbiz ) that state has solicited bidders on what is expected to be an $89.5 million building project that planners hope is built by May 2015. The state will issue bonds and lawmakers will have to appropriate money periodically to pay debt. Two parking ramps are being contemplated at a $20.8 million combined price tag, according to bidding documents.

When the Capitol is remodeled, there will be space for fewer lawmakers there. The new building is slated to have bigger public hearing rooms.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said constructing a new legislative office building was "something that needed to be done in conjunction with the renovation of the Capitol."

In a separate bill approved with strong bipartisan support, lawmakers voted to borrow $109 million to continue restoration of the 108-year-old Capitol.

Majority party senators will have to vacate the Capitol for a couple of years during the makeover.

"We will need swing space when we have to vacate the building, so we started asking, 'Why not a modern legislative building?'" said Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope. "This was an economical solution."

There are also plans for construction of parking ramps near the Capitol with 880 spaces in total, which would alleviate a parking crunch that makes visiting the Capitol difficult when lawmakers are in session. There would also be 212 parking stalls under the new office building.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.