Kimmel reaches a settlement

Source:  The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 2006
By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Culture Writer

Bringing down the curtain on a bruising public relations bout, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and its star architect, Rafael Viñoly, have agreed to an out-of-court settlement in the Kimmel’s lawsuit against his firm.

Neither side would provide details of the deal last night. Although “neither party admits liability or fault, the Kimmel Center recognizes that the Viñoly-designed and delivered Kimmel Center is a stunning, state-of-the-art concert hall that attracts world-class artists,” said a statement issued by J. Bradford McIlvain of Dilworth, Paxson, counsel for the Kimmel Center, and Richard J. Davies of Powell, Trachtman, counsel for Rafael Viñoly Architects.

“It is one of the most beautiful and unique buildings of its kind in the world, a world-class performing arts center, a wonderful civic space, and an economic engine for the entire area. As one of the best facilities of its kind anywhere, it has achieved its goal of becoming a cultural center for all tastes.”

The U.S. district judge in the case would have to approve the deal, Viñoly vice president Jay Bargmann said last night. The agreement was reached late Friday night, he said.

Before last night, the Kimmel wasn’t calling its own building beautiful or unique.

Its lawsuit against Viñoly, filed in November, claimed that the New York architect was responsible for “deficient and defective design work,” as well as delays that boosted the project’s final cost by $23 million.

“This action arises from an architect who had a grand vision but was unable to convert that vision into reality, causing the owner to incur significant additional expenses to correct and overcome the architect’s errors and delays,” the suit read.

Viñoly responded by claiming that any delays and increased costs resulted from the Kimmel’s own foot-dragging on decisions, and accused the Kimmel of trying to solve its continuing financial problems by extracting money from him.

The Kimmel has run deficits every year since opening in 2001, and has paid off little of the $30 million debt it incurred to finish construction.

Bargmann said last month that Kimmel Center president Janice Price said on Nov. 1, 2004, in a meeting with him and Viñoly that this was a fund-raising opportunity for the center.

Then, also last month, Viñoly took more action. He sent a letter to the Kimmel’s board chairman, William P. Hankowsky, with copies to the entire board, informing them that the “center’s success has been jeopardized by a management team that has demonstrated professional ineptitude and irresponsibility; not only towards the people who put forth their best efforts to complete the Kimmel Center, but also to the memory of Bill Rouse, who created the vision the lawsuit now demeans.”

McIlvain, the Kimmel attorney, called Viñoly’s statements “false and defamatory.”

Price said the letter resulted in her having to assure “my colleagues and friends nationally and internationally that I’m still the CEO of the Kimmel Center… and defending my professional reputation, which has been grievously harmed.”
Bargmann said last night the settlement was amicable.

“Hopefully, we will work with the performing arts center again in the future,” he said.

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