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City withholding payment over The Cube flaws

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The City of Winnipeg is holding back payment to the architect, contractors and suppliers involved in the construction of The Cube, the troubled outdoor stage at Old Market Square.

The city shuttered The Cube in August due to safety concerns with the hypermodernist structure. Repairs to the stage, its lights and its metal mesh curtain are underway and should be completed by mid-June, in time for the summer festival season, Winnipeg urban design manager John Kiernan told city council’s downtown, heritage and riverbank committee this morning.

The cost of the repairs, which he did not disclose, will be recovered from holdbacks to the stage’s builders, he said. If that does not cover the cost, the city may take legal action, property director Barry Thorgrimson said.

The Cube has not functioned properly since it was built in 2010, said Brian Timmerman, executive director of the Exchange District Business Improvement Zone, which is responsible for programming for Old Market Square.

Timmerman told the committee of a litany of problems that have plagued the stage. The metal mesh curtains do not open the same way twice, resulting in wear and tear on winches, pulleys and the structure itself, he said. Floor lights have failed due to improperly working cooling fans, maintenance lights have never worked and the promised year-round lighting has never been programmed due to mechanical issues. The access to the second level of the stage was restricted by the mesh curtain. Workers are now installing a rear door into the metal skin to allow proper access to to the rear of the structure.

Timmerman said he is not sure the structure is up to code. He said he is a fan of the design but will not be happy until the stage is functioning properly.

Kiernan said the city will do whatever is necessary to ensure modifications and repairs are made because the city owns the structure.

Councillors asked to be presented with a status report about this work in late May.

The Cube was built in 2010 for $1.2 million as part of a wider redevelopment of Old Market Square. Winnipeg firm 5468796 Architecture won an award for the design and claimed the building was only "70 to 80 per cent complete" when it opened.

Four summers is too long to wait for design issues to be resolved, Timmerman said.

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