McCarthy Building Companies Inc. is seeking more than $11.45 million in damages from Plano ISD over work done on the new Robbie & Lynore Robinson Fine Arts Center, which has yet to open because of what the district calls significant cracking in floors.

Law firm Peckar & Abramson P.C. filed a lawsuit on behalf of McCarthy on Feb. 14 in Collin County’s 471st District Court. The breach of contract lawsuit claims McCarthy was not paid for the balance of the firm’s contract with the district as well as change orders incurred during the project. The firm is also seeking damages for project delays and defective design documents provided by the district as well as interest, attorney fees and more.

Nathan Kowallis, McCarthy senior vice president of operations, said the construction company has been committed to the "successful completion" of the PISD fine arts center since the project's inception, and it is working with the district to address the various design issues that have arisen.

"While McCarthy filed suit for its outstanding payments, Plano ISD and McCarthy are currently working toward a resolution of the issues on the new [fine arts center] and are close to reaching consensus on a satisfactory solution for the repairs stemming from the design-driven issues," Kowallis said in a statement April 26. "We remain committed to working with Plano ISD and all parties involved to identify a comprehensive solution, and we look forward to continuing on a path forward so that the community can experience this wonderful new facility."

PISD officials also stated the district is collaborating with McCarthy and architectural firm Perkins&Will to "correct or remedy" the aesthetic appearance and serviceability of the facility.

"Recently, the parties reached an impasse regarding the allocation of costs related to such remedial work, which resulted in McCarthy filing a suit against Plano ISD seeking payment under its construction contract," according to a district statement sent to Community Impact Newspaper on April 26. "The litigation notwithstanding, Plano ISD and McCarthy continue to work on remediating the deficiencies as quickly as solutions are presented, supplies procured and trades become available with the goal of achieving substantial completion that will allow the facility to be available for students and the community to enjoy."

Opening postponed

A planned January grand opening for the $67.5 million fine arts center was postponed in December after the discovery of “significant cracking as a result of poor workmanship and/or design,” according to a district news release.

In an email sent to PISD parents Dec. 9, district officials said evidence of significant cracking in the floors of the fine arts center building "do not meet the aesthetic standards established by Plano ISD." The email states that PISD does not intend to take occupancy of the facility until "this deficiency” is resolved to the district's satisfaction.

PISD's board of trustees voted unanimously at a special-called meeting Feb. 14 to authorize Superintendent Sara Bonser to proceed—at her discretion—with filing a lawsuit over the stated defects and to enforce the district's contracts with McCarthy and architectural firm Perkins&Will.

“Our hope continues to be that we will resolve the fine arts center issues without filing suit, but the administration believes that taking this action is in the best interest of the district in case the situation necessitates a legal response,” Bonser said in a Feb. 14 statement.

As of April 26, the district has not filed suit over the fine arts center.

Perkins&Will was hired by the district in 2017, the same year McCarthy was named the construction manager at-risk for the fine arts center project.

McCarthy's lawsuit

Among the change orders McCarthy alleges it was not paid for include errors and omissions in the project’s design, additional work on interior and exterior architectural concrete walls, and remediation of cracks on the floors of the center.

“[Perkins&Will] was the architect hired by PISD to design the project,” McCarthy’s lawsuit states. “[Perkins&Will] and its subconsultants were responsible for the adequacy of the project’s design. PISD provided McCarthy with the project design, and that design was defective.”

Perkins&Will did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit also states that two separate project delays resulted in additional costs incurred for McCarthy. The first delay of 129 days was due to PISD not having the necessary permits for McCarthy to begin its contractual work, according to the lawsuit. The second delay was for 26 days because of “abnormal weather” that affected the project’s schedule.

“PISD is contractually responsible for those 26 days of abnormal weather,” McCarthy’s lawsuit states.

The suit also states that the design for the exterior concrete walls at the fine art center was “deficient in several respects.”

“The walls did not have any control joints to account for cracking,” McCarthy’s lawsuit states. “Nor was there a secondary water barrier in the wall design. Therefore, when the exterior concrete walls cracked due to errors and omissions in the walls’ design, water infiltrated the project structure and negatively impacted the architectural aesthetics of the project.”

Project scope

The 82,200-square-foot facility at 1800 Alma Drive was approved as part of PISD’s $481 million bond referendum in 2016. It was originally expected to be built by late 2019, but district officials previously said weather-related issues delayed the start of construction until April of that year.

Once it opens, the facility is expected to host hundreds of performance dates each year from PISD’s nearly 23,000 fine arts students in seventh to 12th grades, according to district staff. Events to be hosted at the center would include University Interscholastic League music and theater competitions, concerts, senior high school musicals and shows from outside arts groups, according to staff.

The facility’s venues include the 1,502-seat Main Stage Auditorium, the black box-style Studio Theater, the Dance/Rehearsal Studio, an outdoor Performance Lawn and the Legacy Gallery art showroom.

PISD Director of Fine Arts Kathy Kuddes previously said operating costs at the center are expected to be between $400,000-$500,000 per year for the district.