Additional space added to new Bell Museum design

Features like a basement and additional exhibit space weren’t originally slated in the plans, but will now be included.

Christopher Aadland

After concerns were raised about a smaller than envisioned new Bell Museum of Natural History, the layout’s size has been increased.

The decision was announced after a meeting held for the project’s stakeholders Saturday morning on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus, where the new museum will be located.

Under the updated conception, features like a basement, additional exhibit and meeting spaces and room for catering will be included — features that weren’t incorporated in previous renderings of the building.

With the new amenities, the cost of the project is slated to increase by almost $7 million, bringing the new museum’s total cost to more than $64 million. The University will chip in for the costs of the added features, according to a letter from University President Eric Kaler, which was given to those who attended Saturday’s meeting.

“We’re hopeful it takes us to that next level … to do fantastic exhibits,” College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences Dean Brian Buhr said after the meeting. “This part really puts us over the top on being able to provide those aspects.”

The changes come in the wake of criticism by state legislators and museum advisory board members who said they were worried a scaled-back design would make the new building less desirable.

If the current design is approved by the Board of Regents at its September meeting, the new museum should be completed sometime in in the spring or summer of 2018, Vice President for University Services Pamela Wheelock said after the meeting.