A partially finished high-rise in Seattle’s Denny Triangle neighborhood is behind schedule and facing claims from subcontractors who say they haven’t been fully paid.
It’s a hangup for a project that drew attention for its particularly Seattle design: British Columbia-based developer Westbank plans to suspend a decommissioned Boeing 747 jet between two 47-story towers. The site is set to include apartments, a Live Nation music venue and a Trader Joe’s.
But now, work on the project has slowed and 11 companies have filed 18 lien claims totaling nearly $35.4 million.
Most of the claims name the project’s general contractor, Graham Construction, the LLC created by Westbank that owns the site (Project Stewart LLC), or both as the debtors. Several name a subcontractor who, in turn, says it hasn’t been paid by Graham or Project Stewart.
The developer, contractor and subcontractors have so far said little about the disputes.
A spokesperson for Westbank cited “issues” the developer is resolving with Graham — along with the pandemic, recent concrete driver strike and supply-chain issues — but declined to explain specifics.
Representatives for Graham, which is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, declined to comment. The subcontractors who filed the claims either declined or did not respond.
The filings come as Westbank stakes out a growing presence in Seattle. The developer has more apartments underway near the Frye Art Museum, is building a condo project in Belltown and recently struck a deal with the Archdiocese of Seattle that would remake several blocks in First Hill.
At the Denny Triangle project, at 1200 Stewart St., the lien claims range from $10,000 to more than $8 million each from companies that provide drywall, rebar, window installation and other work, according to county property records.
The claims cover work finished as far back as December as well as work that was still ongoing when the claims were filed in recent months. Allstar Mechanical filed the largest claim in February for nearly $8.6 million it says Graham owes. The most recent claim was filed Wednesday.
The project near the Frye, at 707 Terry Ave., faces similar issues. Nine companies have filed 12 lien claims totaling about $5.6 million.
Property tax payments for the first half of this year, due May 2, still have not been paid at 707 Terry, according to county property records.
Westbank spokesperson Lorne Richmond cited an array of complications facing the two projects, but declined to elaborate.
“The concrete strike, COVID was just havoc on businesses in downtown Seattle, so there had to be a lot of adjustments, a lot of halts, a lot of stops, a lot of starts,” he said. “And in that process, Westbank is working along with Graham to try to fix what they can.”
“They’re big, complicated projects. We don’t want to be in the finger-pointing game,” Richmond said.
Concrete mixer drivers were on strike for several months earlier this year, delaying construction projects across the region. But drivers returned to work without a deal in April and many projects are back on.
It’s not clear whether Westbank and Graham will remain partners. Another contractor, Build Group, has replaced Graham on the Belltown condo project. At 707 Terry, several Build Group logos could be seen this week.
Richmond said Westbank plans to “activate” the projects, but could not provide estimated dates for when they would be finished. The developer still plans to include the Boeing jet at the site, according to Richmond and recent permitting documents filed with the city of Seattle.
Liens are part of a multistep process that can lead to the forced sale of property to pay off debts, but in most cases the disputes are settled instead, said Magnus Andersson, an attorney in Bellevue who specializes in construction liens and was not speaking specifically about Westbank’s projects.
Andersson said he has seen an uptick in the use of liens on construction projects in recent years, “but far from every project is having to deal with them.”
So far, none of the companies that filed liens this year on Westbank’s projects appear to have taken the next step of filing in court to foreclose on the liens, according to King County Superior Court records.
Under state law, they have eight months after filing the claim to file in court.