Legal Battle Over Convention Center Expansion Continues

 

A rendering of the proposed convention center expansion.

A rendering of the proposed convention center expansion.

The massive expansion being undertaken at Washington State Convention Center remains in limbo as a heated legal battle between the convention center and Skanska-Hunt continues. The conflict between the two parties originated in March, when Skanska-Hunt, the construction company the Washington State Convention Center Public Facilities District hired in 2015 for the $1.4 billion expansion, was dropped from the expansion project. In response, Skanska-Hunt filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court, which aims to stop convention center officials from beginning another contractor selection process.

On Wednesday King County Judge Beth Andrus denied Skanska-Hunt’s appeal to be reinstated as the contractor. The larger issue of whether the convention center authority wrongly terminated Skanska-Hunt, will be decided in a trial to take place within the next four months. During the trial, Judge Andrus has granted Skanska-Hunt’s request to stop the convention center officials from finding a new contractor.

The grounds of Skanska-Hunt’s termination are at the center of this case.  The construction company called the dismissal “shocking and tremendously disappointing.” Arguing further that:

“We have operated in a professional manner consistent with our corporate values and in the best interest of the Washington State Taxpayers who will ultimately fund this $1.4B project, the statement said. The services, which we have provided WSCC, are consistent with the manner in which we have delivered similar projects for the cities of San Francisco, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Jose, Seattle and others over the past decade.”

Pine Street Group, which is serving as the expansion’s project manager, believes that Skanska-Hint is perhaps “not the right fit for the project.”

Despite the common process for publically funded projects to select contractors based on price, the convention center chose Skanska-Hunt for a variety reasons.  According to Judge Andrus’ ruling, the convention center dropped Skanska-Hunt in order to peruse a cheaper option.

The Washington State Convention Center expansion is expected will increase the center’s exhibition and meeting space to 1.2 million square-feet.  A 30-story residential tower, a 16-story office building, and new retail and public spaces are also part of the project. Despite the legal issues currently playing out, the project is still slotted to break ground in 2017.