Not even open, Downtown Library will get new roof

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August 1, 2005 // UPDATED 1:56 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

They're getting ready to raze a roof they just built at the new Downtown Central Library.

"I believe we need to tear off the roof that we just put down to make way for the planetarium," Project Manager Richard Johnson said.

That work alone will add approximately $500,000 to the library/Planetarium project as initially envisioned.

This isn't a case of an epic government screw-up - at least not at the local level.

The $28 million Planetarium and Space Discovery Center will be part of the new Downtown Central Library.

The Planetarium's future was uncertain until this spring, when the Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty approved $22 million in state bonding. Prior years' legislative efforts had failed, but city voters had previously approved funds for the library building and work was well underway.

Had the city known in 2004 it would get state money, it might have considered a less expensive roof. However, that was the year legislators and the governor could not agree on a bonding bill.

State inaction left local officials with a tough choice: count on future legislative harmony and put on a temporary but possibly leak-prone roof on their brand-new book center, or guard against ongoing gridlock with a better, leak-proof roof.

They chose the safe route, only to see the state get its act together in 2005. Johnson said the new roof, installed in late 2004/early 2005, cost $425,000 to install. The estimated cost to tear it off and throw it in the dumpster is between $55,000 and $115,000. (Had planners gone with the more risky temporary roof, it would have cost $350,000 to install and would have been cheaper to remove, he said.)

"The fact we didn't get the money in '04, it gave us no choice but to put the roof on," Johnson said.

In related news, the City Council, Minneapolis Library Board and the Minnesota Planetarium Society are creating a new Implementation Committee to oversee design and construction of the Planetarium.

The nine-member committee would include City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), who represents the area; Councilmember Scott Benson (11th Ward), chair of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee; two Library Board members, two members of the Planetarium Society, Library Director Kit Hadley, City Coordinator John Moir and a private-sector representative.

The City Council approved the plan July 22. The Library Board will vote Wednesday, Aug. 3.

Johnson said he was getting ideas "from three different clients" - the city, Library Board and Planetarium Society - but the Implementation Committee could review the project's budget as a single client.

Johnson said he is working on budget estimates and cost increases due to construction delays, including inflationary increases.

The Implementation Committee needed to work out basic questions, such as who would own the facility among the city, Library Board or Planetarium Society, Johnson said. He hoped to have the design done and bids taken in 2006, with construction starting late that year.