By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4)– Cranes are a common sight in downtown Denver and the newest addition is part of the renovation project at the Denver Art Museum and its North Building.

“We’re now going from tearing down and ripping everything off to rebuilding everything,” said Christoph Heinrich, the director of the museum.

Crews placed the 260-foot blue crane onto the campus so it can lift materials weighing as much as 33,000 pounds. For the next month, Saunders Construction will use the tool to move 750 tons of steel for the new Welcome Center.

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(credit: CBS)

The project began almost a year ago and plans to preserve the historic North Building while also creating a new addition to the museum campus. Once completed, all three structures will be connected.

“We were up here on this floor,” Heinrich told CBS4 from seven stories above Civic Center Park. “This is 10,000 square feet of the finest real estate in Denver and nobody does anything with it.”

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(credit: CBS)

Heinrich explained that the scene from high above the facility approaching 50 years in age helped museum staff to realize they need to not only add to their campus but restore the North Building. The site owned by the museum was not currently being used before the project began.

“We looked at these views, there are these spectacular city views on this side, the North side of the building, and beautiful mountain views on the west side of the building.”

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(credit: CBS)

Heinrich acknowledged that the North Building had the reputation of looking like a castle or a prison, giving the impression that it was not approachable. But he is excited about the inviting layout that will incorporate that facility once this project is done.

One aspect of the renovation especially important to him is the new location for the education center. The museum welcomed 200,000 children last year so he is thrilled to see the hub for their experience taking a more prominent role on the first floor of the remodeled building.

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(credit: CBS)

The $150 million project hopes to create more community space and make guests feel safe as they enter the museum without worrying about traffic on surrounding streets, according to a news release. In addition to the Welcome Center, there will be expanded public gallery and event facilities.

Revitalization of the North Building including modernizing the HVAC system and making the structure more energy efficient will be funded by $35.5 million from the Elevate Denver bond approved by voters.

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(credit: CBS)

Shawn Chitnis reports weeknights for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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