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MINNEAPOLIS-Cesar Pelli & Associates has been hired to design the new $122-million Minneapolis Library, a project that is expected to transform the two blocks on the northend of Nicollet Mall in Downtown. The new 400,000-sf Central Library is planned as part of a larger, two-block mixed-use project on the current library site and the adjacent block across S. Third Street.

An estimated $9 million in tax-increment financing is likely to be available for public space, skyways and other amenities, while there are no estimates yet for parking and housing costs. The project will include a new $34-million Planetarium, a public commons, retail space, a residential tower and parking.

Pelli is known locally for his design of Wells Fargo Center, built 15 years ago and once the corporate headquarters for Norwest Corp., which relocated to San Francisco after it bought Wells Fargo several years ago.

The team beat out Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle and Ellerbe Becket, both of Minneapolis, and a partnership between Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer of New York and RSP Architects of Minneapolis.

Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and library board trustee Diane Hofstede, co-chairs of the New Central Library Implementation Committee, recently announced the hiring.

Besides Cesar Pelli & Associates, and architectural practice established in 1977 with offices in New Haven, CT and New York, others involved in the project include:

* Architectural Alliance of Minneapolis, which will provide the local expertise on the project and a partner to the Pelli bid.

* Michaels Associates Design Consultants Inc., founded in 1975 in Scottsdale, AZ, will provide extensive library planning and interiors experience for the project.

* Ralph Appelbaum Associates of New York City, which has designed the new planetarium, provides comprehensive services in the areas of public education, public-space and institutional design, capital fundraising, and the promotion of new products and programs.

Minneapolis voters approved a bond issue last November provided $110 million, with the remaining $12 million to be raised privately. In addition, the $34-million planetarium will likely be paid for through $30 million being requested in the upcoming session of the Minnesota Legislature and $4 million is to be raised privately.

Master plans are expected to be ready next year. Construction is expected to start in 2003 with completion in 2006.

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