The owners of the McGuire Apartments, the 25-story Belltown tower whose tenants were just ordered to move out because of building defects, is moving forward with demolition plans despite an ongoing lawsuit to halt the building’s destruction.

Diane Sugimura, director of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development, told the city council’s Committee on the Built Environment yesterday that Carpenter’s Tower LLC, the owners of the apartment tower, “have started talking to us about a demo permit. We’re looking at the whole situation very carefully.”

To an outside observer, demolition of the McGuire might seem like a done deal. In a statement on April 10, a spokesman for Carpenter’s Tower said that “since the necessary repairs are impractical”—that is, too expensive—”the decision of the owner is to dismantle the building.”But since that announcement, the McGuire’s builder, McCarthy Building Companies, has claimed that all the building needs is “reasonable remediation” and “maintenance.”

The debate over whether the building needs to be torn down or not is complicated by the fact that the building’s owner, Carpenter’s Union, and its builder, McCarthy, have been in litigation for several years. McCarthy, in turn, has sued Seattle’s Hewitt Architects as well as subcontractors.

One building resident familiar with its litigious history told PubliCola that the builder claims it could have addressed building defects years ago, but that litigation made doing so impossible. Thus, the building’s owner may be tearing down a building whose known, fixable problems simply got too expensive to repair over time. Whose fault that is (the owner’s for tying the builder up in litigation, the builder for not getting it right the first time due to its own actions or its contractors’) is a story that will unfold in courts this fall.
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