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Architect selected for expansion

Published 12:03pm Thursday, September 12, 2013

RSP Architects to design Institute project

The Hormel Institute and the Austin Port Authority have an architect for the upcoming $27-million Institute expansion.

The Austin Port Authority approved RSP Architects of Minneapolis to design the Institute expansion during a public meeting Wednesday.

RSP Architects will take charge of the project for up to $1.4 million and break ground as early as next July. Construction should cost about $22 million, though city officials could cut costs in the project. RSP will be paid about 6.65 percent of the project’s final budget.

The firm had also designed The Institute’s first expansion in 2008, as well as the recent Hormel Corporate North expansion and Apple Lane Child Care Center renovation, according to project manager Jon Erichson.

“They’ve been very active players in the community,” he told the port authority.

The expansion plans will add at least 15 new labs to The Institute. Institute and port authority officials could also add an auditorium to the expansion project, though Erichson said the auditorium won’t be built if officials run out of money.

“It is very clear to us that we have $27 million for this project — and no more,” Erichson said.

Institute and city officials have worked on the project for several years, only to see it delayed this year.

The Hormel Foundation, through Learning Tree LLC, began buying properties east of the Institute for the expansion as early as September 2010, while city officials and the Institute planned to seek state dollars for the project in 2011.

State legislators secured half of the $27 million project in a 2012 bonding bill after the Hormel Foundation pledged to match state funding. The foundation announced in July it would donate $23 million to expansion efforts, with $9.5 million of that going to recruit scientists for the new labs. Foundation officials said a fundraising campaign will also be launched this fall to raise another $3 million for cancer research.

Erichson told the port authority the project would likely be split up for bid based on The Institute’s needs, such as ensuring lab animals are treated as safe and humane as possible. That means more local construction firms could bid for 20 to 25 projects under the expansion, he said.

Institute officials hope to wrap up the expansion — which will likely double the facility’s size and add about 120 employees — by 2015.

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