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American Swedish Institute nears groundbreaking for $21.5 million campus expansion

To accommodate growing programs, the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis's Phillips neighborhood is embarking on a $21.5 million campus expansion.

A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for April 16, while construction will continue through June 2012, according to institute information.

The twofold project includes the renovation of the 1908 Turnblad Mansion, where the American Swedish Institute was founded 80 years ago, its website states. A new elevator and stairway tower will make it more accessible; original rooms will be preserved, and classroom and community meeting areas will be set up, along with space for research materials, according to the website.   

Bruce Karstadt, who is the president and CEO of the American Swedish Institute, explains that through the years, "The mansion has been called upon to serve as all kinds of things that it was never intended for."

The renovation will help bring back its original grandeur.

Secondly, a 34,000-square-foot Nelson Cultural Center, named for donors Carl and Leslie Nelson, will be built adjacent to the mansion, with a pedestrian walkway linking the two buildings, he says.

The center's contemporary design will complement the historic mansion, reflecting Scandinavian influences, he says.  

It'll feature a glass-enclosed reception lobby, art gallery, studio and crafts workshop, 325-seat event space, conference room, museum shop, and café. It'll also have storage space, commercial kitchens and offices for partner organizations, including Gustavus Adolphus College, according to project materials.

Given that the institute will offer the only full-service café in a multi-block area, "we hope people come for the coffee and stay for the story," says Karstadt.

There'll be a courtyard between the two buildings, with an outdoor dining and programming area, he says.

In the new cultural center, the institute will go for a high level of LEED certification, a national benchmark for sustainability; Karstadt says that it will be one of the first museum spaces in the area to do so.

The institute will achieve the standard by incorporating a green roof, native plants, sustainable building materials, low-emission interior finishes, water and energy conservation measures, and geothermal heating and cooling systems.

"We're really excited," he says. When all is said and done, "it'll be accessible and welcoming for the entire community."

Source: Bruce Karstadt, president and CEO of the American Swedish Institute
Writer: Anna Pratt

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