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Preferred design for governor’s residence reaffirmed, cost limit discussed

BISMARCK - The committee steering the design of a new official residence for North Dakota's governor reaffirmed its preference for a one-story design over a pair of two-story schemes on Monday, while also agreeing to live within the $5 million co...

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Project architect Chris Hawley of Fargo talks to a design committee about the costs of a new North Dakota governor's residence on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the Capitol in Bismarck, N.D. The images at his left show the committee's preferred design. (Mike Nowatzki / Forum News Service)

BISMARCK – The committee steering the design of a new official residence for North Dakota’s governor reaffirmed its preference for a one-story design over a pair of two-story schemes on Monday, while also agreeing to live within the $5 million cost limit set by state lawmakers.

Members voted 4-3 last month to give top ranking to a design that consists of a one-story private residence facing Fourth Street connected to a two-story public space facing the Capitol mall.

The 17,678-square-foot residence would encompass 7,860 square feet of finished private space for the governor and first family, a 3,363-square-foot public gathering space and 6,455 square feet of utility and support space.

Committee members reviewed preliminary cost estimates for the three options for the first time Monday.

Based on similar projects, architect Chris Hawley of Fargo estimated the cost of the one-story scheme at between $4.08 million and $4.35 million and the two-story scheme at between $4.32 million and $4.51 million.

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However, that doesn’t include an estimated $400,000 for design fees and construction oversight, $300,000 for furniture in the private residence, $100,000 for outdoor furniture and banquet tables and chairs and several other potential add-ons and upgrades – all of which total about $2.3 million.

Members began identifying features they could potentially live without, but were hesitant to commit to cuts until bids are received and the committee gets a guaranteed maximum price next spring.

“We are a little bit over, although we’re not as far over as it seems,” said committee member John Boyle, the state’s director of facility management.

Lawmakers voted in April to spend up to $4 million in public funds to demolish the existing 55-year-old residence and build new, as long as $1 million in private donations can be raised.

The preferred option -- dubbed “Prairie Meets the Edge of Western Clay” and designed in the Prairie School style of architecture associated with architect Frank Lloyd Wright -- will be presented with the other two options for public input at 1  p.m. Dec. 1 at the Capitol.

The Capitol Grounds Planning Commission has final design approval.

Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, one of four lawmakers on the design committee, said he still favors the two-story “Campus Estate” design, which he believes provides more security for the first family and makes “a more regal statement.”

Debate also continues on how many people the public gathering space should seat. Preliminary designs provide space for 100 at a cost of $383 to $400 per square foot.

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Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, said she thinks the house “is probably oversized a little bit,” and she supports shrinking the public space.

“I’d rather take it from a different spot,” Kasper said.

Hawley said shrinking the design won’t change the overall look.

“We’re talking 2 feet here and 2 feet there,” he said.

If more than $1 million in private donations is raised, the law allows the excess funds to be used for upgraded fixtures and furniture. However, any increased spending authority can’t be used to expand the scope of the project.

“The feeling of the committee is that it’s better to reduce the size and keep the high quality,” Boyle said.

Kasper said he hopes members keep in mind that the home is being designed to last for 100 years.

“We have one opportunity to do it right,” he said.

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Officials hope to have the new residence completed by Thanksgiving 2017.

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