Crews have begun removing lumber suspected of not meeting state fire code from three half-built Twin Cities apartment buildings, and the builders are starting to sue each other over the mess.
The framing work on three projects — the Hello Apartments in Golden Valley, the Foundry apartments in Minneapolis and the Residences at 1700 in Minnetonka — was halted several weeks ago when regulators and builders determined the wood, accounting for 10 to 20 percent of the wood in each site, didn’t have labels indicating it met fire code.
Deconstruction on the 1700 Plymouth project has begun and work on the Lake Street project is slated to start later this week, said Michael Deering of Big-D Construction, the contractor on them.
“At this time, our primary focus is on moving our projects forward in a safe and timely manner,” Deering said Tuesday. “Neither job is idled and all other trade work is continuing forward as planned and on schedule.”
The company was also the contractor on the Hello Apartments, but it was removed late last month by the project’s developer and owner, Golden Villas LLC of Excelsior. Big-D subsequently filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court against Golden Villas, alleging wrongful termination and breach of contract.
In its lawsuit, Big-D contends that the company presented the owner of Golden Villas with “several different plans, each of which would cure any alleged default,” leaving it up to the owner to decide which solution to pursue.
Golden Villas immediately ordered Big-D to remove all materials supplied by Chicago Flameproof and in response Big-D said that it had secured an agreement with its subcontractors to work 10 hours a day and seven days a week to finish the project on time.
The suit alleges that Golden Villas didn’t respond to a request to meet with Big-D, and then terminated its contract for “alleged default.” Golden Villas immediately replaced Big-D with Hopkins-based Frana Cos.
The suit seeks damages “of least $50,000,” including attorneys’ fees and costs. Deering declined to comment on the litigation.
Traci Tomas, chief manager of Golden Villas, said that she will be submitting an answer and counterclaim within the time allowed by the court.
“Needless to say, we disagree with Big D’s claims and strongly believe that our termination for cause was justified and appropriate,” she said.
Tomas said that Golden Villas and Frana have been working closely with the city of Golden Valley “with the highest level of safety in mind,” and that removal and replacement of the noncompliant lumber began Tuesday.
Separately, Hugo-based JL Schwieters, the subcontractor that installed the framing lumber on all four projects, is suing its supplier, Montgomery, Ill.-based Chicago Flameproof.
That suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, accuses Chicago Flameproof of negligence, misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, deceptive trade practices, false advertising and consumer fraud.
Messages left for Schwieters, Chicago Flameproof and the plaintiff’s attorneys were not returned Tuesday.