City stops construction of West Lake apartments

Contractors are determining how to replace exterior lumber at 3118 W. Lake St.

City officials have ordered construction to stop at an apartment project at 3118 W. Lake St. after discovering the building’s lumber does not meet code for fire resistance.

The former Tryg’s restaurant site has been under construction for more than a year to create 230 apartments and a ground-floor restaurant.

“The code-required labeling of the lumber was suspect, so the City of Minneapolis along with the architect of record required the lumber to be tested,” said city spokesman Casper Hill. “The test found the lumber did not meet minimum building code specifications for fire resistance. The contractor and design team … now needs to come up with a way to meet those specifications before this project can proceed.”

Chris Grzybowski, vice president and managing director at Big-D Construction, said officials are still discussing how to fix the problem. Only the wood on the perimeter of the project would need to be removed and replaced, he said, but it’s challenging because construction is so far along.

“It’s going to be very complicated,” he said.

Grzybowski said Big-D’s subcontractor, JL Schwieters, purchased material without the appropriate certification from supplier Chicago Flameproof. He said the lumber is fire-treated and passed 10-minute burn tests, but some of it failed 20-minute extended burn tests.

JL Schwieters is suing Chicago Flameproof, according to the Star Tribune. Staff at Chicago Flameproof declined to comment, and told KSTP in late July that it stands behind the lumber.

“I’ve never heard of this ever anywhere,” said Dan McConnell, business manager of the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council. “This is completely unprecedented.”

The Council and Minnesota Professional Firefighters held a news conference near the Tryg’s site on Monday. In a press release, Chris Parsons, president of the Minnesota Professional Firefighters,  said the lumber “points to what may be an alarming cost-cutting trend in the construction industry.”

In response, Grzybowski said the issue is not a cost-cutting strategy, and said his firm took action as soon as they were alerted by officials in June. The lumber also impacts local projects in Golden Valley and Minnetonka.

“Somebody down the line from the distribution side made the decision and supplied the wrong material, and it slipped through the quality control process,” he said.

A statement Thursday from High Street Residential said they are confident in the general contractor’s ability to remedy the situation.

“Working with our general contractor, we have been presented with a comprehensive action plan to replace the questioned lumber products with fully certified lumber purchased from a different source than the original product,” said the statement.

Craig Westgate, chair of the Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association (CIDNA), said he’s concerned about the ramifications for Loop Calhoun, the condominium building next door.

Residents there are currently suing for building damage they noticed after construction began.

“Will they take care of the Loop?” Westgate said. “This can’t be a cheap fix.”

Trammell Crow 2

Construction went on hold for several months in 2015 after residents noticed cracks in walls and ceilings. Some residents have been advised to stay off sloping balconies on the west side of the building.

The developer reportedly signed an agreement to cover any damage caused by construction. But residents said no payments have been made, and said the developer is now telling them damage is due to preexisting conditions.

Trammell Crow has said the company can’t comment on pending litigation.

CIDNA recently passed a resolution urging the developer to investigate and repair damages at Loop Calhoun and the nearby Calhoun-Isles Condominiums.

Prior to the city’s order to stop work, the completion date was set for January 2017. Grzybowski said contractors will try to keep that target date.