It’s a hot July day in downtown Minneapolis – the midday sun is blazing through thin clouds and heating up the streets. But you might get a bit of cooling mist by standing next to the fountain in front of the Hennepin County Government center.
If you do get some relief you should feel lucky, because that fountain has almost disappeared, and more than once.
The fountain is as old as the building, which opened in 1975. But it’s always been problematic, costing the county over $20k a year to operate and maintain. And it’s had a tendency to leak… into the corridors and offices underneath.
No one today seems to know exactly when the drips began, but no doubt many municipal employees had to sponge off their desks over the decades. In 2012, engineers advised the county to remove it entirely and re-do the whole plaza at a cost of $2.6 million; that plan was rejected. In 2015, more leaks, another plan was floated to replace the whole thing, and again officials opted for repairs. In 2016, Hennepin County finally bit the bullet: a complete renovation to the tune of $3.5 million. That seemed to do the trick – until a “bonding problem” was found in 2018, necessitating more upgrades. Four years later, things seem to be staying dry.
It was all worth it, in my opinion. The beautiful 70s design of the plaza and fountain is today one of the few bright spots in the downtown of a troubled city. You can sit there watching the business of the metropolis flows around you (City Hall is next door) and feel like maybe your society and its government are making some sense after all. Positive things are happening. It’s a big open sky, up there.
And no, those buildings aren’t melting; I used a 180 degree fisheye lens to pull the whole scene together. I love the distortion and the slightly surreal mood it creates.