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Owner of evacuated student-housing development sues engineer over alleged design defects

FORT COLLINS — The owner of Union on Plum, the Campus West apartment complex that was shut down and evacuated because of structural issues last year, has sued the development’s engineer for alleged design defects. 

The complaint was filed Friday in Larimer County District Court. 

Property manager Greystar Worldwide LLC, which owns Union on Plum through the entity Plum Owner Ft. Collins Co. LLC, is seeking at least $11 million in damages from Wantman Group Inc., the company that acquired the project’s engineer, MSP Engineering Group PLLC.

Union on Plum, which opened in 2018, is located at 1303 W. Plum St. In August 2021, Greystar closed the building and evacuated its 220 residents, most of them Colorado State University students, because of structural issues in the shear walls. The building remains closed while repairs are underway.

According to the complaint, MSP did the shear wall design for Union on Plum and its principal, Gerald Thomas Wynne, signed and sealed the structural drawings with the Larimer County Code Compliance Department. 

In October 2020, the complaint says, MSP provided notice for the first time of a “potential engineering issue with the design of the shear walls of the project . . . [and that MSP] in an abundance of caution, recommended that the project be evacuated in the event that the forecast wind speeds exceed 70 mph.”

Greystar claims that it then employed an engineering consulting firm to review the building, and it determined “that the shear wall structural system had been badly and dangerously under-designed by MSP.”

The shear wall system was redesigned to make it code-compliant, and the building was evacuated so it could be repaired. 

Greystar also claims that Wynne, the engineer for the project, was not licensed in Colorado at the time he designed it and has been ordered by the Colorado State Board of Licensure of Architects and Engineers to cease and desist the unlicensed practice of engineering in Colorado.

Greystar is seeking $6.96 million to cover the remedial construction costs and $4.31 million in lost rent income, plus additional potential damages. 

Greystar is represented by Ben Ochoa, Caitlin McHugh and Lance Collins of the Denver firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP. Wantman Group does not have an attorney registered. Attorneys for Greystar and representatives for Wantman could not be reached for comment. 

The case was filed Oct. 7 in Larimer County District Court. It is Plum Owner Ft. Collins Co. LLC v. Wantman Group Inc. n/k/a WGI Inc., case number 2022CV30669

Source: BizWest

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