Growing List of Safety Concerns Puts Stamford’s Largest Developer Under a Spotlight

All tenants are being asked to leave their apartments in The Lofts, a converted lock factory that is part of Harbor Point, a major redevelopment project in Stamford’s South End. The structure, originally built in 1900, is sinking, the city’s chief building official has said. It opened with 225 apartments in 2010.

Share

TwitterFacebookCopy LinkPrintEmail

STAMFORD – The Feb. 1 collapse of part of a pool patio into a garage at a South End high-rise has the attention of the Board of Representatives.

So does a swimming pool filled with frozen water on the fifth floor of another South End high-rise, and so does a South End apartment building with foundation problems so significant that most tenants were forced to move out last July, and those who remain must be gone by April.

City Rep. Bradley Bewkes, a District 1 Republican, said he expects all three Harbor Point buildings to be on the February agenda of the board’s Land Use Committee, which he chairs.

“I want to make sure this is on our radar. These are our constituents living in these buildings,” Bewkes said. “When things like this happen, we as representatives have to take them seriously. We can provide that extra layer of oversight.”

The partial failure of the pool deck at Allure, a 22-story, 435-unit apartment building at 850 Pacific St., built in 2019, reminded him of last summer’s disaster in Surfside, Fla., where part of an oceanfront condominium fell, killing 98 people, Bewkes said.

“In that case the pool deck also collapsed into the parking garage,” Bewkes said. “But the Florida building was 40 years old. It’s difficult to understand how it could happen at a new building like Allure, given the nature of today’s engineering technology.”

A spokesman for Building & Land Technology, the Harbor Point developer that built and owns Allure, said the garage roof “has been inspected by multiple third-party structural engineering firms” and city building officials and engineers.

“The engineers are confident that the issue is limited to this specific area, and have designed a plan for repair, which is being reviewed by an independent engineer and the City of Stamford Building Department,” BLT spokesman Rob Blanchard said.

Lauren Meyer, spokeswoman for Mayor Caroline Simmons, said the cause of the partial collapse at Allure is still being investigated. Simmons ordered city engineers to contract with an outside firm to do an independent investigation, Meyer said.

BLT, the city’s biggest developer, announced last week it would inspect some of its other buildings. Meyer said BLT hired a firm that so far reports that “the failed stepped slab condition within the interior bay (at Allure) is unique to this building and does not occur at any other Harbor Point P-block buildings.”

But Harbor Point residents are reporting problems in other buildings, lawmakers said.

A woman who lives in Escape, a 22-story, 435-unit high-rise with water views at 880 Pacific St. – built in 2020 – emailed city and state representatives to say the pool on the fifth floor was not covered for the winter. The water froze and expanded, possibly cracking the pool walls, deck and pipes, the woman wrote.

She reported calcified “icicles” hanging from the ceiling of the garage, caused by dripping water.

“She sent us pictures of leaky pipes, cracks in the parking garage, water falling onto cars,” said state Rep. David Michel, D-146. “These are brand-new buildings. These problems are way more than maintenance issues. These are structural concerns.”

Engineers are investigating why part of a pool deck collapsed into the parking garage at Allure, a 22-story luxury apartment building in Harbor Point, a major redevelopment project in Stamford’s South End. The incident at the high-rise, built in 2019, has city representatives questioning whether inspections are keeping up with the pace of development.

Meyer said the city’s independent analysis “will help determine whether additional risks might exist, and could inform future efforts to review building plans to detect potential safety problems.”

Potential safety problems have been the focus of work at The Lofts at 200 Henry St. since last year. Once the Yale & Towne lock factory, The Lofts was converted to 225 apartments and opened to tenants in 2010. BLT built The Lofts but sold it to GAIA Real Estate of New York for $395.5 million in 2016, city records show.

In May, Lofts property management company Cushman & Wakefield told most tenants that they had to move out by the end of July. 

Stamford’s Chief Building Official said at the time that the amount of moisture in the soil beneath The Lofts shifted since the original structure went up in 1900, and it had begun to sink. The building frame was tilting, windows were cracking, and gaps were appearing around doors, the CBO said, but there was no danger of collapse.

Last week a Lofts tenant shared with lawmakers a letter from Cushman & Wakefield saying “the scope of work has increased significantly and no longer allows us to keep the residents of building 3 in their homes.” It was originally thought that only residents of Lofts buildings 1 and 2 would have to move, but now everyone must be out by April 30, the letter states.

“Due to the nature of these necessary structural and foundation repairs, it will not be possible to keep any of the apartments at Lofts occupied during the construction period,” the letter reads.

A spokeswoman for Cushman & Wakefield responded to a request for comment but did not provide the information as of Thursday evening.

BLT has built nearly 4,000 apartments in Stamford in the last decade. Bewkes said it’s time to take a closer look.

“The city is developing at a rapid pace. Perhaps the city is not able to keep up with inspections,” Bewkes said. “Perhaps we need a better system.”


Angela Carella

For 36 years prior to joining the Connecticut Examiner, Angela Carella was a beat reporter, investigative reporter, editor and columnist for the Stamford Advocate. Carella reports on Stamford and Fairfield County. T: 203 733-6811

a.carella@ctexaminer.com