Chinese steel demand reduces Mill Ruins improvements

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September 27, 2004 // UPDATED 4:10 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is cutting planned improvements to Mill Ruins Park in the face of unexpected cost increases, staff said.

The problem is half a world away.

Project Manager Rachel Ramadhyani said plans are being redrawn because steel prices went "through the roof. ... That is mainly due to the building boom in China, which is sucking up a large portion of the world's steel and other construction materials."

The Park Board had planned to add a series of steel-laden bridges and catwalks flanking mill canals downstream from Portland Avenue. Planners expected the project would cost $980,000, Ramadhyani said. The low bid exceeded $1.3 million, or 35 percent higher than what was budgeted. The Park Board formally rejected the bid Sept. 15.

The scaled-back project will eliminate an 80-foot catwalk spur on the canals' south side, near Portland Avenue. It will also cut accent lights next to the now-gone catwalk.

Also eliminated is a stadium-step seating area at the tailrace's downstream end, designed for informal seating, interpretive performances and convening tour groups. "It included a number of concrete walls that came in at astoundingly high prices," Ramadhyani said.

In a further cost-saving move, the Park Board will replace steel grates on the catwalks and bridges with a gray fiberglass mesh, she said. The fiberglass looks the same as steel and should be more durable. The Park Board considered fiberglass when it first did construction estimates, but at the time it was more expensive than steel. Now, Ramadhyani said, it is a bargain.

Staff expects to seek new bids in October, Ramadhyani said.

The project still has catwalks on both sides of the canals and a bridge spanning it. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has to approve the new design, but Ramadhyani said she did not expect problems.

The plan changes should not significantly delay to project's completion, expected to be Oct. 1, 2005, she said.

Mill Ruins Park opened in 2001 along the Mississippi River's west bank next to St. Anthony Falls, interpreting the city's former milling district.