More than three years after it opened, the state-financed and state-subsidized Connecticut Science Center remains bogged down in a $10 million lawsuit against its "world-renowned architect," Cesar Pelli.
Lawyers for both sides say some minor side issues have been settled. They've managed to agree, for example, on completing work on the center's leaky plaza and unfinished landscaping.
A technical hearing in the ongoing legal battle has been set for next week, and the biggest claims are still out there.
The suit charges that Pelli's award-winning designs were "incomplete, ambiguous and flawed," that hundreds of changes or clarifications were required, and that construction was delayed for more than a year to redo things like the entire freakin' roof and the walls.
Not exactly the sort of stuff Pelli, once honored as one of America's 10 most influential living architects, is used to hearing. (His company has declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit.)
"There are issues that remain," the center's lawyer, Jane Milas, says with remarkable understatement. "At present, we don't have a settlement… worked out with the architect."
"My client is working diligently to reach a reasonable and appropriate settlement," explains Donald Doeg, one of the attorneys for Pelli's firm, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects Inc.
A hearing in Waterbury Superior Court has been scheduled in the case for September 10th, but not much in the way of action is expected. At least a trial date has finally been set – for October 2013.
Lawyers for both sides say they're hoping to reach some kind of a settlement before then. Of course, they're also not predicting success and insist they're all ready and willing to fight it out in court. None of the science center's top officials apparently wanted to talk about the lawsuit or anything connected with it.
The lawsuit has been a complex sucker from the day it was filed – which happened just a few weeks after the $165 million center opened its doors in June 2009.
As soon as they could, Pelli's lawyers dragged something like a dozen contractors and subcontractors into the litigation. One of those, the project's general contractor Whiting Turner, has been dropped from the case but everybody else is still hanging around.
The Science Center, built using about $40 million in private funding and more than $120 million in state money, has had its own financial problems.
Planners originally figured public funding would cover about 25 percent of the museum's operating costs, but state budget woes cut that to about 8 percent during the first couple of years of the center's existence. This year, the state is providing just $630,603 in subsidies to the Science Center, which has an annual operating budget of about $8 million.
Getting back some of that $10 million caused by construction delays and cost overruns would help the center's financial strains considerably. Tracy Shirer, spokeswoman for the science center, says any money recovered through the lawsuit would replace funds donated from private sources that were used to finish the building.