Scott Ball / Rivard Report
The San Antonio museum that bills itself as “more than a building, a foundation for a lifelong love of learning” is suing over what it asserts is defective design and construction work on its 4-year-old campus.
The DoSeum, the $46 million children’s museum that opened in 2015, has filed a lawsuit against Lake Flato and Guido Construction of San Antonio, and TLC Engineering based in Dallas, alleging there are defects in the museum’s roofing and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
William Baine, attorney for The DoSeum, filed the petition Sept. 20. Baine released a statement on behalf of his client stating the museum is pursuing legal action “to remedy concerns regarding its facility, with the primary impetus being the HVAC system and its capacity to meet the demands of the 65,000-square-foot space.”
He further stated that the museum is taking action to protect the investment of donors and benefactors by ensuring the longevity and sustainability of the facility. The problems do not pose safety concerns for visitors or employees, Baines said.
“We’ve been talking with them about these issues,” Baine told the Rivard Report on Wednesday. “We plan to move forward and work with them, and if we can get it resolved, that’s great.”
DoSeum CEO Dan Menelly was unavailable to comment, and Aaron Parks, vice president of operations and guest experience at the museum, said he could not talk about the pending lawsuit nor the costs involved with the design and mechanical problems.
He said the museum has notified donors about the issues and has been working with the architects and construction firm for some time to resolve them.
Lake Flato partner Greg Papay, The DoSeum’s architect, said he did not know The DoSeum was planning to take legal action. “It’s been our effort, going back to since we started working with them in 2012, to do a really great facility for them,” he said. “So we’ve been working pretty hard for a while to help resolve all the stuff they had identified.”
Papay said there are both mechanical and some minor design issues described in the legal filings.
“Pretty much any building like The DoSeum is a custom-designed thing from the ground up … so you’re bringing new systems and new materials to sites and it’s impossible for everything to go perfectly,” Papay said. “It’s not common that we end up with a suit filed against us. We never want that. We are trying to take these things that they’ve cited as issues with the building and trying to work through them.”
Guido Construction CEO Maryanne Guido said her company has been working with The DoSeum for the last three years to resolve what she called design deficiencies.
“Sometimes things in any building … don’t perform the way the owner had anticipated,” she said. “So we’re trying to resolve their understanding and expectations versus what is occurring.”
The suit is seeking $1 million in damages. But Guido pointed out the repairs that the museum wants would cost “far less than that.”
The DoSeum filed publicly available tax documents reporting revenues of $8.3 million in 2018, which included $3.9 million in gifts, grants, contributions, and membership fees. The value of its land, buildings, and equipment is $12 million.
During the same reporting year, The DoSeum listed Baine among its top five highest-paid contractors, with $152,348 paid to him for legal services. In the three previous years, the museum reported paying Guido Construction a total of $1.3 million between 2015 and 2017.
The children’s museum moved from its former home on East Houston Street in the heart of downtown to its 5.5-acre campus at 2800 Broadway in 2015.
The museum’s larger space, outdoor exhibits, and parking garage were funded in part by a $20 million gift from Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of H-E-B, as well as $4 million from Valero.
The City’s 2019 budget allocates $200,000 to support The DoSeum’s operational costs.
Architects David Lake and Ted Flato founded the San Antonio-based firm Lake Flato in 1984 and count among their local projects the Briscoe Western Art Museum and the Pearl Brewery redevelopment.