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FNS Photo by Mike Nowatzki Construction continues Wednesday on the parking lot and other improvements north of the Capitol tower and legislative wing in Bismarck.

ND Capitol grounds, cafeteria getting facelift: Remodeling comes just in time for 125th celebration

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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Capitol will put on its best face for Saturday’s pre-birthday party celebrating 125 years of statehood.

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Meanwhile, the back of its head is a bit of a mess.

Construction is in full swing on the Capitol’s north side, where crews have ripped up the concrete parking lot, trees and loop road to replace them with a safer, more efficient and better-looking layout that will sport three times as many trees as before.

People arriving from the south for Saturday’s music and other festivities may not notice the work going on behind the Capitol, but it may make it harder to find a parking spot.

“That work, unfortunately, it is parking area, which will diminish some of what would normally be available,” said Janean Rambough, 125th anniversary coordinator. “But as far as the event itself, that won’t have any effect on that, because all of the activity is on the south side of the Capitol.”

The small parking lot west of the Department of Transportation building and closest to Saturday’s action will be reserved for handicapped parking that day, Rambough said. Others are encouraged to park in the east DOT lot, the northwest lot and the legislative lot on the Capitol’s west side, she said.

The construction is the second phase of a three-phase plan approved five years ago for parking areas on the Capitol’s north and west sides, Facility Management Division Director John Boyle said.

The first phase, completed in fall 2012, added 280 parking spaces in the northwest corner of the Capitol grounds at a cost of about $1.4 million.

Phase 2 involves replacing the north parking lot with about 200 parking spaces, including consolidating handicapped parking into a 15-space lot. Crews also are straightening the north access road from Divide Avenue and moving the existing loop road 100 feet back from the Capitol for pedestrian safety and security reasons and to create a formal drive-up area.

Sidewalks, raised beds and trees will fill in the setback area on the north side of the legislative wing and Capitol tower, in an effort to beautify the north side so it mimics the south side, Boyle said. The work, estimated to cost about $5 million, is expected to wrap up by Nov. 1.

If funding is provided, the project’s third phase will involve replacing the legislative lot sometime in 2015-2017, Boyle said.

“And then once that’s done, we shouldn’t have to do any work for 20 years at least,” he said.

Inside the Capitol, work continues on a $1.1 million renovation of the ground-floor cafeteria known as the Capitol Café. Booths are being added to boost seating capacity by 10 percent, and the serving area and kitchen are being reconfigured for better traffic flow.

“It was just time for an overall facelift for that,” he said.

The café’s vendor also has been asked to start accepting debit and credit cards to make the lines move faster, Boyle said. Currently the café only accepts cash or check.

The café has been relocated to the 18th floor, the Capitol’s top floor, during the renovation. It’s expected to reopen in its ground-floor space during the first or second week of October, Boyle said.

An agenda for Saturday’s celebration is available at www.history.nd.gov/northdakota125.html. The state will commemorate its official 125th birthday with a separate event Nov. 2.

Nowatzki is a reporter for Forum News Service. Contact him at 701-255-5607 or by email at mnowatzki@forumcomm.com.

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