Progress on the unfinished five-story apartment building at 144 Historic 25th Street shut down in March due to the contractor’s failure to use fire-retardant lumber.
And this fall, building inspections revealed other critical deficiencies in the stalled structure that looms larger than any of its neighbors.
In mid-October, the Standard-Examiner reported on results of an October 2 inspection that indicated sagging floor joists, structural connections that failed to meet code, bowing of the building’s framing components, and tilting of its roof trusses.
An October 12 notice from Ogden City warned that these conditions pose a danger to public safety if any structural support members give way due to continued stress and weight overload.
A worst-case scenario would be the collapse of the 4,701-square-foot building.
The developer, Springville-based Summa Terra Ventures, touts 35-plus years of experience in erecting multi-family structures in Salt Lake City and metro markets in other states.
The building’s contractor, Makers Line, also had a reputable track record until recently. This summer, various subcontractors on multiple projects began filing suit for nonpayment.
In mid-November, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that 13 lawsuits had piled up against Makers Line, with the company’s debt totalling more than $2.2 million.
Two of those lawsuits involve Ogden’s outsized structure at 144 25th Street — one from Logan-based Bear River Heating and Air Conditioning for $64,029, and the other from Bingham Plumbing & Mechanical for $106,173.
In a recent phone interview, Ogden Community and Economic Development Director Brandon Cooper said the building should be alright, at least in the short term.
“There’s no pending danger right now,” Cooper said, adding that the City is working with Summa Terra to replace Makers Line as the project’s general contractor.
The city has also stepped in to keep the massive structure from going up in flames. Part of that effort involves a strategic fire watch.
“We’re also taking steps to fortify the perimeter with a taller, more secure fence, and a lock and cameras to thwart any unauthorized access,” Cooper said.
But what happens next remains unclear. Even the City Council seeks more answers.
“A lot of residents have been asking how that building got authorized in the first place,” City Council Chairwoman Angela Choberka recently said by phone, noting that further research was underway to chart its timeline and trajectory.
However, the Council doesn’t play a part in deciding its future unless a budget action is required, Choberka said, noting that the most they can do is apply political pressure “to make sure something happens.”
City documents indicate that the Planning Commission first approved the 55-unit, five-story site plan in February 2021, then amended that plan on May 19, 2021 to ensure that its brick exterior blended with neighboring storefronts.
The City’s Landmark Technical Committee reviewed that revised plan and signed off on it before Mayor Mike Caldwell gave it final approval on May 21, 2021.
Mike Watson, Summa Terra CEO, did not respond to requests for comment. But Cooper said the developer remains under a stop work order and a notice of dangerous building.
And Cooper doesn’t yet know where, why and how the structure’s deficiencies crept in.
“We’re not sure where the failure happened between the contractor and developer,” Cooper said. “I believe they’re still trying to figure that out between themselves.”
However, winter weather is on its way, and Cooper acknowledged that heavy snowfall could pose a significant threat.
“I’m not a structural engineer,” Cooper said, “but from what I understand, the time [of year] and additional weight is not our friend.”
Adhering to the process
During an October 24 City Council work session, Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mara Brown defended the City’s planning process.
“We have followed the normal construction and plan review process in this situation, which has been a year and a half or more,” Brown told City Council members and staff, describing the balancing act that gives developers time to fix problems that surface during inspections.
But when it reaches the place where the required fixes aren’t getting done, the City can intervene to do what’s necessary, including demolition as a last resort.
“Then it has to be identified as a dangerous building,” Brown said. “That’s the point we’re at.”
A third-party inspection, hired by the contractor, corroborated the deficits uncovered by earlier City inspections, Brown said.
The city’s October 12 notice gave the developer 60 days to resolve its issues. Any appeals could extend that time, Brown added.
“So we’ll be keeping an eye on it as it goes through that process,” Brown said. “But right now the most important perspective of the city is that we’ll be doing the in-person fire watch and we’ll be hardening the structure.”
Feature Image by Brian Nicholson.