It has been a rough couple of years for the developers of some Twin Cities apartment buildings that experienced construction-related delays and complaints.
Last year, construction of nearly a half-dozen suburban apartment buildings was halted when doubts surfaced about whether the proper fire retardant had been applied to framing lumber. The latest project to attract that kind of negative attention is Prime Place, a 200-plus unit apartment building that is under construction along 27th Avenue SE. near the University of Minnesota and TCF Bank Stadium.
Prime Place was scheduled to be ready for occupancy before the start of the school year but, as a pair of stories in the Star Tribune reported earlier this fall, the entire building wasn’t complete. A portion of it received an occupancy certificate — meaning it passed city and state inspections — after the school year began, and about 100 residents moved in early last month. But work continues on the rest of the building.
Earlier this week, the Minnesota Daily published a report that raised new questions about the quality and safety of the building. A construction superintendent left the project in August last year, the newspaper reported. It also found the portion of Prime Place that is still under construction was poorly secured.
A portion of its account relied on an inspection by Greg Johnson, a former St. Paul building inspector who is now a consultant and was hired by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Minneapolis to make a visual inspection of the building. Johnson walked through it on Nov. 1 and produced a report with photos that he said represented several construction problems.
“Construction appears to be not very well performed or supervised,” Johnson wrote in his report.
Pat Higgins, a Minneapolis building official, said that inspectors regularly visit the portion of the building that is still under construction and has yet to receive a certificate of occupancy. The deficiencies they find are being addressed, Higgins said.
“The project has run into a number of challenges,” he said. “It is not unprecedented to have these kinds of issues … this is something that’s not unique in any large project, especially apartments, because you finish them in phases.”
Dan McConnell, the Trades Council’s business manager, said the project is just the latest example of an out-of-state contractor coming in and performing “unacceptable work.”
“How we ever got to this stage is very troubling,” McConnell said. “We have gone beyond just being concerned about inconveniencing students who wanted to live in this development to now calling for better vetting of contractors who are allowed to do work in our state.”
The project was first announced in fall 2015 by owner Chris Elsey. It was the first in the Twin Cities for his company, Manhattan, Kan.-based Elsey Partners. The firm owns the project architect, Prime Design, and general contractor, Prime Build.
The Prime Place apartment building replaced a commercial building and a railroad spur on a narrow site.
At that time, Elsey said the building would be a longtime hold for the company, which will also self-manage the project. Its nearest project is in Lincoln, Neb., but the company was also developing apartment buildings in Stillwater, Okla., and in California.
Elsey declined to comment on the project this week.
Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376