The Downtown Library's long-stalled Planetarium took a huge step forward, with funding approved in both the state House and Senate borrowing plans.
The DFL-controlled Senate has passed its bill, which included $24 million for the Planetarium, part of the new Central Library at 300 Nicollet Mall. The Republican-controlled House Capital Investment Committee approved $6 million for the Planetarium Feb. 22. Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (D-Minneapolis), a minority whip, called the $6 million allocation significant, since the House had never initiated Planetarium funding in the past.
"We have done better than Minneapolis has done in any previous bonding bill under the Republicans being in charge," she said.
The Planetarium is an add-on to the library. The library itself is already well under construction, with a summer 2006 expected opening. Kelliher said it would be very expensive to build the Planetarium after the new Central Library is fully equipped and running. It would require vacating a couple of floors of the just-completed building.
It would have been better to have had the money last year, she said. However, "if this bill passes at the end of March, they can immediately get back in there. They have some of the construction equipment there. They need to get a crane back in there. They can go to town and get this done," Kelliher said.
Library Director Kit Hadley said the Planetarium would cost $28 million, with private money filling the gap. The House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill
Feb. 17. The full House was expected to debate the bill Tuesday, Feb. 22, and send it to conference committee.
In other bonding news affecting Downtown:
- Shubert Theater restoration: The Senate provided $10 million; the initial House plan provided $1 million, an amount Kelliher said "keeps it alive."
- Light Rail Transit Central Corridor planning, linking Minneapolis and St. Paul: The Senate provided $5.25 million; the House provided $1 million.
- Cedar Lake Trail, new Downtown Link: The Senate provided $0; the House provided $500,000.