Builder: No need to demolish 2001 Belltown apartment building
The company that built the McGuire Apartments in Belltown says the building is safe and there's no reason to tear it down. The statement came a day after the 9-year-old building's owner, Carpenter's Tower LLC, announced the 25-story tower would be vacated by Dec. 31, then demolished, because of construction defects too expensive to fix.
Seattle Times business reporter
The company that built the McGuire Apartments in Belltown says the building is safe and there's no reason to tear it down.
"Our experts ... have conducted sophisticated, thorough testing of the building components at issue and determined that it is entirely safe,... " a spokeswoman for McCarthy Building Companies of St. Louis said in an e-mail on Monday.
"With reasonable remediation, maintenance and monitoring, long-term ongoing operations could continue."
McCarthy's statement came a day after the 9-year-old building's owner, Carpenter's Tower LLC, announced the 25-story tower would be vacated by Dec. 31, then demolished, because of construction defects too expensive to fix.
McCarthy did not respond to a request for more details on its assertion. Carpenter's Tower's representative, Kennedy Associates, has indicated it would answer reporters' questions Monday night.
The owner and builder have been mired in litigation over the building's construction for more than three years.
Seattle's Department of Planning and Development said in a letter to Kennedy Friday that it had reviewed engineering reports on the McGuire's structural problems and agreed the building is deteriorating and should be vacated.
But in its statement, McCarthy said "it is critical for Seattle Department of Planning and Development to be fully informed of the opinions of experienced professionals who have examined this subject in depth. ... "
McCarthy is one of the country's largest commercial builders, but it no longer maintains an office in the Seattle area or builds projects here.
Meanwhile, Seattle city officials were poring over records Monday to see if they had missed any red flags during construction of the 272-apartment building a decade ago.
"Our first responsibility is to find out what happened here," Alan Justad, deputy director of the Department of Planning and Development, said Monday. "So far, I'm not hearing we had any special concerns raised, which is surprising."
Justad said city officials probably would complete in the next day or two their review of inspection reports "several inches thick" that were submitted during the McGuire's construction by Mayes Testing Engineers of Lynnwood.
Mayes served as "special inspector" for structural concrete construction on the project, working on the city's behalf, Justad said. The McGuire's owners have identified corrosion of steel reinforcing cables in the building's concrete slabs as the biggest structural defect and attributed the problem to inadequate rustproofing.
Mayes President Mike Mayes said in an e-mail Monday that his firm inspected the placement and stressing of the "post-tensioned" cables, but "inspection of the post tension cable terminations, including the application of rust inhibitors, was not part of our scope of inspection on this project."
He did not respond to a request for clarification.
Mayes also noted in his e-mail that his firm is not a party in the lawsuit, and has made all its records available to the city, the owners and contractors.
According to its Web site, Mayes has provided inspection services for a number of high-profile buildings, including the new Escala condominium tower and Aspira apartments in downtown Seattle, the office tower known until recently as the WaMu Center, and Bellevue City Hall.
City code allows third-party "special inspectors" for some kinds of specialized construction, Justad said. The project's owner — in this case, Carpenter's Tower — "nominates" and pays them, and the city accepts them if the inspectors are certified by the Washington Association of Building Officials.
If not for "special inspectors," Justad said, the city might have to hire another 10 or 12 inspectors during construction booms.
Mayes was supposed to be on the McGuire site during "significant structural concrete construction," Justad said. "There are things we count on them to keep track of."
If Mayes had observed problems, he said, it could have notified city officials, who have the power to issue stop-work orders, but that apparently did not happen.
In court documents, Carpenter's Tower — a joint venture of the local carpenters union and several pension funds — has estimated the cost of repairs to the McGuire at $80 million. The building has an assessed value of about $60 million, according to county records.
Kennedy has offered the McGuire's tenants financial incentives to move out quickly.
Justad said he knows of no other newer buildings in Seattle with similar problems. A construction lawyer not involved in the McGuire litigation said such legal disputes are highly unusual.
"You just don't see that many lawsuits alleging massive construction defects over this class of construction," said Mike Daudt, a partner at Terrell Marshall and Daudt, in Seattle.
Seattle Times staff reporter Susan Kelleher contributed to this report.
Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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