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Developer of stalled 25th Street building project points finger at contractor

By Tim Vandenack - | Oct 2, 2023
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The five-story Summa Terra Ventures apartment building taking shape at 144 25th St. in Ogden, photographed Friday, Sept 29, 2023.
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The five-story Summa Terra Ventures apartment building taking shape at 144 25th St. in Ogden, photographed Friday, Sept 29, 2023.

OGDEN — The developer behind the stalled apartment building project on Historic 25th Street is faulting the contractor handling construction of the structure for use of insufficiently fireproofed materials.

In no uncertain terms, Springville-based Summa Terra Ventures is pointing a scathing finger at Makers Line, blaming it for using wood in the building’s construction that wasn’t prescribed in plans approved by the City of Ogden. Use of the wood, lacking sufficient fire-resistant qualities, prompted the city to order a halt to construction on March 29 — work has yet to resume — and a “dangerous building” pronouncement last Tuesday.

The five-story structure, which stands out at 144 25th St. for its unfinished wood exterior, “has been determined to be a significant fire hazard by the fire marshal and fire chief,” reads Tuesday’s notice, supplied to the Standard-Examiner in response to a public records request. The notice — meant as a prod, of sorts, to force forward action by the developer — cites use of “standard framing lumber” in building construction instead of “fire retardant treated lumber.”

Beyond the fire concerns, Tuesday’s notice also cites the seeming inaction since the March 29 stop-work order. Initial work at the location started in late 2021 and the notice characterizes the 144 25th St. location as “an abandoned construction site which constitutes an attractive nuisance” and a “hazard to the public.”

The notice contains an order calling on the building owner to start demolition of the incomplete structure by Oct. 11. But Ogden Building Services Manager Jared Johnson said that provision would apply only if Summa Terra Ventures doesn’t come up with an acceptable plan to address the varied issues.

Summa Terra Ventures Chief Executive Officer Mike Watson said the firm submitted a plan last August to the city and revised it to address city officials’ concerns. “We are confident that the plan will work that we’ve submitted,” Watson said.

As for the issue at the heart of the matter — the wood used in the building — Summa Terra Ventures cast blame with Makers Line. Makers Line, reads a Summa Terra Ventures statement, “unilaterally made the decision to substitute fire-treated lumber, as originally prescribed in the contract, the approved building plans and the prevailing national building code, with untreated lumber.” A rep from Makers Line, with offices in Salt Lake City and Denver, didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Summa Terra Ventures went on, blasting the Makers Line move as a breach of contract.

“This deviation from established protocols constituted a breach of Makers Line’s contractual obligations to the owner and a violation of the approved building plans and pertinent building regulations,” the developers’ statement reads. Once discovered, Summa Terra Ventures said it “promptly initiated remedial actions.”

The issue was the focus of a verbal report to the Ogden City Council by Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mara Brown at the body’s meeting on Tuesday. The issues related to construction of the building at 144 25th St., first reported on by the Standard-Examiner last month, are of concern to the public and Mayor Mike Caldwell’s administration, she said.

The building, to house around 50 apartment units, sits in the heart of Ogden’s most high-profile commercial area and is meant to bolster housing in the zone in part to spur activity at the nearby restaurants, bars and other locales. Some have grumbled that the structure, much taller than the others around it, is out of place on Historic 25th Street.

The issues and apparent fire dangers notwithstanding, Summa Terra Ventures emphasized the fix that’s in the works. The developer submitted plans to address the issues to city officials last Wednesday, building on the original submission from August.

“Presently, we await the approval and guidance of Ogden city to address and rectify the issues that precipitated the cessation of construction and the declaration of the building as unsafe,” Summa Terra Ventures said. What’s more, it added, the site is “diligently secured.”

Watson of Summa Terra Ventures wouldn’t get into the details of the proposed fixes since they are still being finalized. Broadly, though, the aim is to make the building as safe as it would have been under the original design plans.

“Ogden City has been vigilant in my opinion about making these construction solutions at least as safe as the original drawings, if not more,” Watson said.

Similar issues arose with another Summa Terra Ventures building taking shape at 407 W. 12 St. — Makers Line is also the contractor — and the developer reached a fix acceptable to city officials. The city issued an order on March 29 halting construction on that apartment building but lifted it on Sept. 22, according to a city email supplied in response to a public records request.

“This communication is to notify you the STOP WORK ORDER I placed on the project dated March 29, 2023, is officially removed and work as per the new approved plans with City Approval Stamp and Date 9/20/2023 can resume,” reads the message from Steve Patrick, Ogden’s chief building official. He had sent the email to Watson, other city officials and others involved with the project.

Watson said the issues with the 407 W. 12th St. projected echoed the problems at 144 25th St. “Same builder, same situation, same decision by the same builder,” he said.

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