Apartment construction damages nearby condos

Construction of a new apartment foundation stopped at 3118 W. Lake St. after residents discovered sheet piling in May damaged nearby buildings.

“It was like being in an earthquake,” said John Wessinger, a resident of the neighboring Loop Calhoun Condos. At least 15 units out of 120 at the Loop saw damage after two weeks of vibrations, with cracks appearing in unit walls and ceilings. Residents of Calhoun Isles Condos across the Midtown Greenway reported damage as well. Upon notifying the developer Trammell Crow Co., construction immediately stopped, Wessinger said.

Sheet piling has since been on hold more than four weeks while Trammell Crow and its contractors determine a new construction strategy. The developer has gone back to the drawing board to determine how to install the foundation without causing any vibrations, said Andy Gittleman, executive vice president of FirstService Residential, which manages Calhoun Isles and the Loop.

A standard preconstruction survey was conducted at the Loop, though not at Calhoun Isles.

“We had no idea it could or would impact us in the way that it did,” Gittleman said.

He said the engineering consultant Encompass has inventoried minor cosmetic damage at both buildings.

“Trammell Crow is going to come back and take care of it,” he said.

Several neighborhood residents said they appreciate the developer’s decision to quickly stop construction and work with residents.

“In all honesty, they have been really cool about it,” said Wessinger, who is president of the Loop homeowners association.

Craig Westgate, chair of the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association, said Trammell Crow has been very responsive, unlike a recent Metropolitan Council construction project in which residents’ damage claims were initially denied.

Trammell Crow spokesperson Cynthia Langhorst issued a statement:

“As with each of our projects, we have very collaborative dialogue [with] our neighboring residents and businesses, as well as the City, that in this case began with our preliminary phases of the project over two years ago and will certainly continue throughout construction,” she said.

One issue of ongoing concern relates to power outages that will be required as part of construction.

One accidental power outage cut power to the entire block, taking out a traffic light and preventing the Loop’s key fobs and automated garage doors from operating. One area resident called 911 to summon traffic cops. Rustica experienced two power outages, causing the bakery to close early and lose up to half a day’s business.

“We felt the effects of construction in our space,” said owner Greg Hoyt. “The counters literally were vibrating.”

Trammell Crow is providing weekly construction updates, Gittleman said, and Xcel Energy is charged with notifying neighbors of planned power outages.

“It will cost a lot more money to build their building,” he said, referring to the construction delays. “Everybody is doing the best they can.”

Given the surprising impact of construction on West Lake, some residents are thinking ahead to light rail construction.

“The big concern is when they do light rail — is there going to be more damage,” Wessinger said.

Westgate said he’s nervous that he hasn’t seen vibration studies related to light rail construction.

“A lot of houses are 100 years old, and there is nothing out there that protects them,” he said. “[This shows] how sensitive this area is to construction.”