The Contractor Hired to Renovate the Private Glenstone Museum Is Suing for $24 Million

The museum's contractor claims Glenstone hasn't covered the cost of a myriad of changes to the project during construction.

Glenstone Museum expansion. Rendering courtesy of Thomas Phifer & Partners and the Glenstone Museum.

Mitchell and Emily Rales’s private museum, Glenstone, in Potomac, Maryland, has hit a slight hiccup ahead of the planned October 4 unveiling of a massive expansion. Hitt Contracting Inc. of Fall Church, Virginia, which managed the ambitious expansion of the Maryland museum, has filed a lawsuit against the museum’s foundation, seeking $24 million in damages, alleging breach of contract and mismanagement of the project.

The contractor sued Glenstone on August 30 in US District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland. In the complaint, Hitt claims that the foundation’s “disorganized” management of the $200 million project forced the company and its subcontractors to self-fund construction for months at a time—contrary to the terms of the contract.

The contracting firm says the foundation repeatedly demanded a “torrent of changes” (2,400 of them, allegedly) that disrupted and delayed work by up to 900 days. Hitt is asking for millions in unpaid fees that it claims to now owe its subcontractors.

“We will not comment on pending litigation, except to say that we look forward to responding to these claims vigorously in court, where we are confident they will be found to be without merit,” said the museum in a statement emailed to artnet News.

What’s not in dispute is that the project, first conceived in 2011, fell behind schedule. Hitt was awarded the $200 million contract in 2014, and the museum was originally planning to open its expanded campus at the start of this year.

The Water Court at the Pavilions, the Glenstone Museum Expansion. Photo courtesy of the Glenstone Museum/Iwan Baan.

The Water Court at the Pavilions, the Glenstone Museum Expansion. Photo courtesy of the Glenstone Museum/Iwan Baan.

“Hitt was retained to build one of the most iconic private art museums in the world,” the foundation’s lawyer, Scott Morrison of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, told the Washington Business Journal. “They promised that they would have their best management and field personnel to build this project. Instead, they delivered the project 10 months late and millions of dollars over budget.”

“This is about being paid for work that’s already been put in place,” countered Hitt spokesperson Ashley Campbell, speaking to the New York Times. The company acknowledges that the contract was adjusted in 2016 to account for $20 million in cost increases, but it insists that the poorly managed project continued to spiral out of control due to the foundation’s demands even after that date.

When the new Glenstone opens, it will feature 240,000 square feet of new space to better showcase the Rales’s 1,300-piece collection of postwar art. That will include 50,000 square feet of exhibition space at the Thomas Phifer-designed Pavilions building, the centerpiece of the expansion. Reservations, which are free, are open as of this week for the newly expanded hours of Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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