What’s going on — or up — at the nature center? Work progressing on new interpretive center
Published 12:07 pm Friday, November 25, 2016
The $7 million Jay C. Hormel Nature Center is taking shape and on track to be completed by this year’s Earth Day on April 22, according to director Luke Reese.
The structure, encompassing almost 15,000 square feet, triples the size of the current visitors center, said Reese.
“In fact, you could fit this building into just what is our new exhibit space,” said Reese.
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Enclosing the structure will allow finish work to continue through until its completion. Although there were a few delays — waiting for delivery of bird-friendly windows, and slow landscaping due to a wet fall — work is humming along now.
The framework and windows are in and sheet rock is beginning to be installed. Sidewalk work is completed around the building.
The building, while it doesn’t look small, is much bigger than its front facade would indicate.
In addition to new offices, conference room and a huge amount of exhibit space, the new building has two large classrooms for its education curriculum, which can be separated by a panel divider, or be opened for a large class group.
Rest rooms, a small serving kitchen, children’s room, storage, craft room (which will double as a cross country ski and snow shoe rental room in the winter) complete the new facility.
The largest area by far is the exhibit space, which will be home to some of the existing exhibits, and some new ones as well. Those range from prairie life and wetlands exhibits, to one with a night theme, complete with night sounds and information on constellations. There will be a large mural space as well as a sitting area with a fireplace and seating for six.
There will also be a donor wall, he said, to pay tribute to the many who helped to bring the proposed center to a realized project.
Also in the center area is a new solar array, as well as a charging dock for electric vehicles.
“It has been such a community effort,” Reese said.
A $5 million grant from the Hormel Foundation got things moving, he said. Since then, $500,000 was received from the city of Austin; $300,000 from Hormel Foods Corp.; and $1.2 million raised through the Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.
“People have just really supported us,” Reese said.
The new building will replace the old center, which was built in 1975. While it served well, it was known the building could never be replaced or changed. It was grandfathered in at its location in a flight path for the Austin Municipal Airport, but understood it could never be expanded. The building will be torn down after the center opens, said Reese.
The general contractor for the project is Met-Con Companies Construction Services of Faribault, with Split Rock Studios of St. Paul handling the exhibits. ISG is the company that designed the space.