Faulty Towers: Defective McGuire Apartments Evicts Renters

By Jane Hodges April 12, 2010

Over the weekend, McGuire Apartments in Belltown notified residents that construction defects dormant since 2001 were cause for everyone in the 25-story building—including its ground-floor retail tenants like Kinkos—to move out ASAP. Turns out the toxic tower has corroded cables, cracking concrete, and an increasingly unstable frame.

Both The Seattle Times and Komo News were on the case over the weekend, detailing talks between the building's management and tenants. The building's reps issued a press release stating that "extensive construction defects which are financially impractical to repair" mean that tenants need to pack up their belongings, take a little cash, and seek rentals elsewhere with help from the staff who got them into these messy leases.

The construction snafu and resulting safety-related eviction is rather ironic, considering that the building is owned by the Carpenter's Union, Local 31, along with a body called the Multi-Employer Property Trust (MEPT). They're the owners, not the builders. But still.

Multi-family buildings in Seattle have been a mixed bag in recent years. In the early 2000s, condo developers were getting sued right and left for construction defects linked to newer siding products that apparently don't work well in the moist Northwest. Tarped buildings dotted the landscape while homeowners associations, builders, and aggressive lawyers battled over how to fund repairs of windows, doors, decks, and siding, then hauled in contractors—often at expense to residents—to do the work right the second time around.

Fast forward to the mid-2000s, and apartments were going condo, booting out renters, bringing in the stainless, and turning otherwise hidey-hole rentals into shiny hidey-hole condos, many of which are now rentals again. Fast forward to the present, and a slowed building market means vacancy in these parts is relatively low, so renters who are accustomed to decent prices may begin to see rent creep—especially if more towers mass-evict residents.

The moral of the story seems to be

that for builders picking the right paint and grout are more important than anyone imagined. (The release says poor paint and grout choices read to corrosion of cables and other building components, ultimately resulting in a weak building frame.)

If you're looking to rent, maybe choose an older building, one built before all this real estate mania stuff, might be a better call. With tall buildings going back and forth from condo to apartment in recent years, it's remarkable to think that this 2001 tower will, for Seattle, serve as one very symbolic hole in the ground—a hole lot of mess for the builders who developed McGuire Apartments.
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