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From concrete benches to grass species, exterior design ideas for the $90 million Legislative Office were on the table Wednesday.

Lawmakers, agency representatives, and the Capitol Area Architectural Planning Board (CAAPB) discussed the building’s façade with lead architect Jon Pickard, who displayed models and photos of what the proposed the five-story glass building could become once construction begins next year.

With more meetings scheduled for next month and beyond, it’s too early to say the renderings are the final decision, but so far, “great progress” has been made, said CAAPB board member Rep. Raymond Dehn, DFL-Minneapolis.

“It’s good news that they’re still on budget.” he added.

Wednesday marked the sixth workshop running up to final approval of the building’s design scheme. The building will be paid for as part of a $2.1 billion tax bill that passed the Legislature last session and built in tandem with an overhaul of the Minnesota State Capitol.

The building, which will be located north of the Capitol across University Avenue with an adjoining parking ramp one block west, isn’t without controversy. Its opulent design, which has included tentative plans for a reflecting pool and gymnasium has drawn ire, along with its planned capacity for only 44 offices.

Minnesota’s 67 state senators currently have offices in the Capitol and the nearby State Office Building, which also houses state representatives. It’s a point of concern for Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, who acknowledged that while “it’s a beautiful design,” the question remains as to whether it’s really necessary.

“Couldn’t we have designed a building that would have kept every Senate office under one roof, rather than have this bifurcated design where the big-shot senators are over at the Capitol and the lowly serf-type senators are in this other building?” he said. “It doesn’t even house two-thirds of the senators.”

CAAPB executive secretary Nancy Stark admired the model of the building, saying its layout will only contribute to the beauty of the Capitol’s north side, one that she said is somewhat forgotten.

“I like that this building doesn’t compete with that north side,” she said. ”It enhances it.”

Here are a few photos from the workshop: