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Associated Press, Published August 07 2013

Reopening of ND Heritage Center delayed

BISMARCK — Construction delays are forcing officials to push back by months the gradual reopening of the North Dakota Heritage Center on the state Capitol grounds in Bismarck.

Labor shortages, scheduling problems and worker housing issues have contributed to the delays, Capitol Facilities Manager John Boyle said.

"Because it is a museum, we want to make sure it's done to the highest quality and highest standards," he said. "It's an amazing structure that the citizens of North Dakota are going to be in awe of when they see it."

Officials had hoped to begin opening new and remodeled areas of the state museum in stages beginning this summer. The opening of the new front entrance was slated for Labor Day weekend. Officials are now targeting an opening early next year, because exterior limestone, landscaping and the lobby still need work, said Claudia Berg, expansion coordinator for the State Historical Society.

"Everyone was optimistic about being able to complete it," she said. "As we got closer to the date, it became clear that deadlines couldn't be met. It's a little frustrating that we aren't open for some of the tourist season, but that also means when we do open our front doors, more exhibits will be completed."

The grand opening for the expanded and renovated center still is on track for November 2014 — the 125th anniversary of North Dakota statehood, Berg said. The new lobby looks much like a glass box, and Berg said it will be called the Northern Lights Atrium.

"This building is a very complicated structure and has some very high-end finishes," she said.

When the $22 million project is complete, the Heritage Center will have about 39,000 square feet of museum space, nearly double the original amount.

The center's original entrance remains open along with the state archives and the museum store. The exhibits remain closed.