The builder of three half-built Minneapolis-area apartment projects said Monday it will replace lumber in them that is suspected of not meeting state building codes.
Big-D Construction Corp. said the firm and its subcontractors will replace 2-by-6-inch and 2-by-8-inch perimeter framing, which accounts for an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the lumber in the projects.
The projects — Residences at 1700 in Minnetonka, Hello Apartments in Golden Valley and Lake Calhoun apartments in Minneapolis — are 45 to 60 percent complete and the company will have to disassemble significant portions of them.
“We’re going to remove and replace,” said Chris Grzybowski, vice president/managing director for Salt Lake City-based Big-D.
The decision is a victory for the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, which since last month has accused Big-D and another builder, DLC Residential, of cutting corners on projects. Neither builder hired workers represented by the council.
In a statement, Dan McConnell, the Trades Council’s business manager, called the situation a “textbook” example of out-of-state contractors trying to “shave expenses.” It said framing wood at the projects lacked the proper stamp indicating that it was fire retardant.
Russ Krivor, chief executive of Miami-based DLC Residential, rejected the criticism. He noted the company is both the owner and general contractor on its project, called Central Park West on the border of St. Louis Park and Golden Valley, and used a framing subcontractor that has operated in the Twin Cities for nearly 40 years.
“We’re getting caught in the crossfire of union politics,” Krivor said. “It’s just completely untrue.”
He added that tests of the lumber at its project showed that it met fire codes. “Our reports came back indicating that our lumber has been fire-treated properly,” Krivor said.
Brian Hoffman, director of inspections for St. Louis Park, which is handling inspections for the DLC project, said the city hasn’t yet signed off on the results of DLC’s tests.
The city of Minneapolis, which had oversight of the Lake Calhoun project, asked Big-D last month to stop framing work and send out lumber samples for testing, said Pat Higgins, a building official for the city. “It was conclusive that it did not meet the standards for a building of this size and height,” he said.
He said the scale of the reworking that will be required is unprecedented.
Marc Nevinski, physical development director for Golden Valley, which has jurisdiction over the Hello Apartments project, said that when the issue was raised, it asked Big-D to suspend exterior framing until the city determined whether the lumber met code.
The owner of the project, Excelsior-based Golden Villas LLC, went a step further. It insisted that Big-D replace all lumber that didn’t meet the fire code and served a notice of “intent to terminate for cause,” a first step toward severing its contract should the contractor not be able to remedy the situation.
Grzybowski, the Big-D executive, said it asked its architect to help determine whether the material was compliant and made a plan for remediation if the test was negative or inconclusive.
When the company received an “incomplete” report late last week, he concluded that the best option was remediation.
“This is a complex and systematic process,” Grzybowski said. “We were prepared for that outcome.”