Developer of Golden Valley apartment fires contractor over lumber issue

July 28, 2016 GMT

The developer of one of four Twin Cities apartment buildings suspected of being built with lumber that doesn’t meet state building codes has fired its general contractor.

Golden Villas, the Excelsior firm that’s building Hello Apartments in Golden Valley, said Thursday it will replace contractor Big-D Construction of Salt Lake City with Frana Cos., a Twin Cities-based firm.

“On Big-D’s watch, lumber that was not approved or code-compliant was used on the Hello Apartments project and Golden Villas LLC will not tolerate actions that create any risk for future tenants,” said Traci Tomas, chief manager of Golden Villas. “They deserve to know their home meets the highest safety standards and that is why safety is the top priority in every project we are involved with.”

A representative for Big-D wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The issue emerged last month when building inspectors were notified that 2-by-6-inch and 2-by-8-inch wall studs that were being used for exterior framing on those four projects didn’t have the proper stamp showing that it had treated with a fire retardant material that’s required by state building codes. Inspectors immediately halted work on the framing part of the projects, which were at varying stages of completion.

In addition to Hello Apartments, those projects include Residences at 1700 in Minnetonka, the 3118 West Lake Street apartments in Minneapolis and Central Park West on the border of St. Louis Park and Golden Valley.

Big-D is also general contractor on Residences at 1700 and Lake Calhoun. The contractor on Central Park West is DLC Residential of Miami. All four projects were framed by a longtime Twin Cities subcontractor that was using material delivered by Illinois-based Chicago Flameproof.

On Monday, Big-D said it and its subcontractors would disassemble significant portions of its three projects and replace suspect lumber. Chris Grzybowski, managing director for a Big-D, said the problem extends to up to 20 percent of the lumber in the projects.

But Golden Villas’ Tomas said that Big-D was unable to present a solution to it and the city of Golden Valley that “met our standards to ensure the project will be built with the specification we approved or that the building code required.”

She said that the firm is working with Frana to determine the best and safest process to remove all noncompliant lumber from the 172-unit project, which is rising at 9120 Olson Hwy., near the junction with U.S. Hwy. 169.

The issue became a flash point for the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, which last month accused Big-D and another builder, DLC Residential, of cutting corners on the four projects.

Russ Krivor, DLC’s chief executive, said earlier this week that the lumber in the Central Park West project — an apartment complex that DLC also owns — meets fire code. He said the issue was mired in politics because neither company is using union labor.

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376