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A Uniquely Minnesotan Model of Governance

In 1891, the Minnesota Senate created a committee to determine whether a new capitol building was necessary and if so, where it should be located. Based on this committee's report, the 1893 legislature passed an act "to provide for a new capitol for the state of Minnesota" authorizing the governor to appoint the Board of State Capitol Commissioners, composed of seven citizens, one from each of the state's congressional districts. 

Following the construction of buildings deemed architecturally inappropriate to the Capitol Area in the 1950's and 1960's, a statute in 1967 created the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Commission.  In 1975, legislative action to more clearly define the numerous boards and commissions changed the commission's name to Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board (CAAPB). One of the CAAPB's primary statutory responsibilities is to prepare a comprehensive plan for the Capitol Area. In 1974, legislation was enacted to require the CAAPB to prepare and submit biennial reports to the Legislature and the Governor on the status of implementation of the comprehensive plan, together with a program for capital improvements and site development.

Structured for Collaborative Decision-Making

By Statute, the Board has twelve members and is chaired by the Lieutenant Governor. There are four members appointed by the Governor, three members appointed by the Mayor of Saint Paul, two members appointed by the President of the Senate, and two members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. By law, an Advisory Committee of three architectural and/or landscape design professionals is required to advise the Board on all architectural, planning, and landscaping matters that affect the Capitol Area. There are three full-time staff who serve the Board at this time. The Board normally meets every two to three months, or at the call of the chair. 

Ongoing Mission to Ensure the Highest of Standards

The Board, Executive Secretary and staff have the year-round duty to review or approve issues directly affecting zoning, planning, development, and/or design within the 60-block area of the jurisdiction of the Board. The Board’s standards are based on quality of design, long-range planning, and timely processing and review. The CAAPB works closely with the Department of Administration, the City of Saint Paul, regional agencies, neighborhood planning organizations, district councils, development groups, private-sector architects, engineers, and developers. 

State agencies and other public bodies who consider building projects in the Capitol Area are required to consult with the Board before they develop plans. Designs for new public buildings and memorials are obtained through architectural competitions. In addition, the Board must review and approve all plans for substantial alterations and/or improvements to public lands, infrastructure, parking facilities and buildings in the Capitol Area. The Board coordinates the implementation of major public projects in the Capitol Area, most recently, the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit (The Green Line). 

The State Capitol Building is the most important building in Minnesota. Any significant changes to the Capitol’s appearance must be approved by the Board, and in this role the Board must consult with the Minnesota Historical Society in regard to the historic fidelity of the planned changes. The Board also shares responsibility with the Department of Administration for developing standards for the repair, alteration, appearance, furnishing, and general maintenance of the Capitol’s public and ceremonial areas. These standards are binding upon the Department of Administration. 

In developing the Policy for Works of Art in the Minnesota State Capitol (adopted in 1998 and updated in December 2015), the Board also shares responsibility with the Minnesota Historical Society for the design, structural composition, and location of artwork within the public and ceremonial areas of the Capitol Building. 

In February 2012, the Board adopted a Policy for Commemorative Works in the Minnesota State Capitol Area, providing guidance for the consideration and design of statues, monuments, memorials, or other commemorative works within the Capitol Area.

Our mission is to preserve and enhance the dignity, beauty, and architectural integrity of the capitol, the buildings adjacent to it, the capitol grounds, and the capitol area
Feature image for Board of State Capitol Commissioners, 1893-1905
Board of State Capitol Commissioners, 1893-1905
The Board was composed of seven citizens, one from each of the state's congressional districts. (Image Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society)
Judicial Center
The design for the Judicial Center was selected through a CAAPB-sponsored competition

CAAPB Celebrates 50 Years

As the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board observers its 50th year in 2017, it is instructive to look back to the Board's first Comprehensive Plan (1970) and its earliest Biennial Report to assess what has been accomplished in five decades:

  • Redesign of all bridges over Interstate 94/Interstate 35E linking the Capitol Area with downtown St. Paul

  • Construction of the Minnesota History Center and the Judicial Center, designs which were selected through CAAPB-sponsored competitions
  • Capitol Mall development, including the following memorials: Vietnam, the Korean War and the World War II Veterans Memorials, the Women’s Suffrage Memorial Garden, the Worker’s Memorial and the Military Family Tribute that help to attract thousands of visitors each year
  • Extensive involvement in development and implementation of the Saint Paul on the Mississippi Development Framework
  • Construction of the Stassen Revenue Building and accompanying 900 car parking ramp in 1997, developed through a design-build method, a new Ag/Health Office Building and Lab Building, and the Elmer Anderson Human Services Building, immediately south of the Interstate 94/35E, as well as several parking structures and in 2016, and the Minnesota Senate Office Building
  • Redesign of all lighting for streets and walkways to improve the safety provided by street lighting, and to establish pedestrian-scale lighting along all walkways
  • A completely new system of architectural lighting for the Capitol Building with improved effectiveness and efficiencies 
  • Enhancement to the Capitol Heights neighborhood north of the Capitol by adding 25 rowhouses on the former Lot V parking lot
  • Planning, design and implementation of Green Line light rail train (LRT) through the Capitol Area, along with construction of the Capitol/Rice, Robert St., and 10th/Cedar St. LRT Stations
  • Since the mid-1980s, $68 million in exterior restoration, stabilization and limited interior restoration of the Capitol Building, including restoration work to the dome and lantern, the rebuilding of exterior terraces, cafeteria restoration, and restoration work in the Supreme Court, Senate and House chambers
  • Completion of the Minnesota State Capitol Predesign Study in June 2001, for interior restoration of the Capitol Building
  • Facilitation of the 14 member ‘Capitol 2005 Commission’ for the Capitol’s Centennial Celebration in 2005
  • Commencing in 2011, partnering with the Department of Administration and the Minnesota Historical Society, complete restoration of the State Capitol Building, both exterior and interior, with conversion of over 30,000 square feet of space to new public spaces, totaling $310 million. The guiding principles for the restoration were functionality, safety, and architectural integrity - the last of which the CAAPB was a driving force, leading to heightened efforts in restoration of historic public spaces of the building, artwork, and Aurora Avenue..
  • Regular updates and rewrites of “The Comprehensive Plan for the Minnesota State Capitol Area” and an award winning, form-based “Rules for Zoning and Design for the Minnesota State Capitol
John Ireland Boulevard Gatehouse Prototype
John Ireland Boulevard Gatehouse
John Ireland Boulevard bridge and gatehouse. (CAAPB I-94 Freeway Bridge Design Framework based on the conceptual design study by Thomas N. Rajkovich and David T. Mayernick in association with Hammel Green and Abrahamson, 1988)
Feature image for Minnesota Senate Office Building
Minnesota Senate Office Building
Located on the north side of the Capitol building, the new Minnesota Senate Building opened on January 22, 2016. Session activities in the building include watching floor session broadcasts, visiting State Senators, and attending hearings. (Image by CAAPB)
Feature image for Green Line light rail train (LRT) by the State Capitol
Green Line light rail train (LRT) by the State Capitol
CAAPB was involved overseeing the design of the Green Line including the Capitol/Rice Street Station, 10th Street Station, and Robert Street Station. (Image by CAAPB)
Feature image for Interior Dome of the Capitol Building
Interior Dome of the Capitol Building
Both the interior and exterior of the Capitol building dome has been restored and stabilized. (Image by CAAPB).
Feature image for Basement-Level Central Space Below the Rotunda
Basement-Level Central Space Below the Rotunda
The restoration of the State Capitol Building was a collaborative undertaking by the Department of Administration, Minnesota Historical Society, and the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board, which included the conversion of over 30,000 square feet into new public spaces. (Image by CAAPB).
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