George W. Bush Presidential Center reaches a milestone

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramOctober 3, 2011 

Today, there's going to be a celebration in Dallas.

After months of work, the last piece of the frame on the George W. Bush Presidential Center -- an approximately 20-foot-long steel beam -- will be lifted by crane and placed at the tallest point of the building, over what will become Freedom Hall, a light-filled space topped with a lantern-shaped roof that will glow at night.

Former President George W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush and other dignitaries will gather with hundreds of workers during a traditional topping-out ceremony, marking when the building under construction reaches its highest point.

"This is a celebration for the workers," said Peter Arendt, director of design and construction of the center. "This is a milestone to celebrate."

In November, Bush and others officially broke ground on the presidential complex -- which will include archives, a museum and an independent public policy institute -- with the goal of opening it in 2013. On more than 20 acres at the edge of Southern Methodist University, workers are creating a 226,565-square-foot Texas-style presidential complex that is expected to cost nearly $250 million to build.

Construction is on schedule and just shy of half-completed, said Arendt, of Fort Worth, who was also director of design and construction for the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Bush is expected to talk this morning to about 500 members of the construction team, as well as dignitaries and news media representatives who will be at the construction site and take a hard-hat tour.

"It's hard to believe there's this much excitement about turning dirt," Bush quipped last year to about 3,000 people at the groundbreaking. But he said the center and his new institute will focus on issues such as education, healthcare and women's issues.

"This is the beginning of a process," he said. "It's the continuation of a journey that began over a decade ago."

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