1800 Lake owners sue architect and engineers

Apartment owners are in a lawsuit with the city over pumping of groundwater

This 2013 photo shows the 1800 Lake building from across West Lake Street. Credit: File photo

EAST ISLES — The owners of an Uptown apartment building sued by the city in December for illegal groundwater discharge on March 6 filed suit against three firms that provided engineering and design services for the project.

Lake and Knox LLC, the owner of the 57-unit luxury apartment building located at 1800 W. Lake St., alleges professional negligence and breach of contract in a court filing. It says the architect and engineers signed off on plans for a basement dewatering system and should be held liable for damages.

The court filing names BKV Group of Minneapolis, RLK Incorporated of Minnetonka and Braun Intertect of Minneapolis, as well as individuals employed by each of the firms, as third-party defendants in the case. BKV Group designed the building and RLK and Braun provided engineering services.

The apartment, known as 1800 Lake, opened in 2011. It lies about 300 feet from the northeast shore of Lake Calhoun at the western entrance to Uptown.

The building includes a two-story underground parking garage that, depending on seasonal fluctuations, lies up to 18 feet below the local water table. Two high-powered sump pumps were installed in 2011, while construction was ongoing, to keep the basement dry. The building opened in October 2011.

According to the city, a temporary dewatering permit was granted during construction, but the owners never applied for or received a permit to continue pumping water. It’s estimated the pumps are sending over 100 million gallons of groundwater per year into the Chain of Lakes.

The 170-gallon-per-minute flow means the city can’t service a nearby storm sewer grit chamber, which requires regular emptying.

The 55-degree groundwater pours continuously into the lagoon connecting Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. It prevents ice from forming on a portion of the lagoon and creates a winter safety hazard, according to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which joined the lawsuit against Lake and Knox in January.

Questions about the pumping first surfaced publicly in January 2013, when Meg Tuthill, who then represented Ward 10 on the City Council, called the situation “frightening” at a meeting with constituents in the East Isles neighborhood. That month, the city hired Barr Engineering to investigate.

That April, Barr delivered a report that included a slate of options for resolving the dewatering issue. One solution — fitting a permanent seal around the basement — came with an estimated price tag of $6.6 million–$25 million.

The city gave Lake and Knox an October 2013 deadline to pick one of the solutions. The lawsuit was filed three months after that deadline passed.

Lake and Knox has requested a jury trial in the ongoing lawsuit. It’s tentatively scheduled for January 2015.

One of the Lake and Knox partners, Daniel Oberpriller, declined to comment on the most recent court filing via email. Attorneys representing the city and Lake and Knox did not immediately respond to requests for interviews.