The owner of the building at 151 Charles St., which was previously home to Beacon Hill Cleaners, is suing the owner of the adjacent building at 149 Charles St., alleging that illegal basement excavation work there resulted in structural deficiencies at the building next door, which led to an emergency evacuation at that address.
Universal Hub, a local online news source, first reported that the owner of the building at 151 Charles St. filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court on Jan. 31 against the owner of the neighboring building at 149 Charles St., which was previously home to the Beacon Hill Pub, for alleged illegal digging in its basement that led to structural damage next door.
After some of the supports at 151 Charles St. were damaged and its foundation compromised during the construction next door, tenants there who hadn’t already vacated the building were forced to move out when their floors became warped, and their windows and doors no longer closed properly, according to the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff, Charles and Cambridge Corner LLC, a subsidiary of the Egeria Group, an Amsterdam-based capital management firm which owns 151-151A Charles St., accuses the defendants, 147 Charles Holdings LLC, Brahma Development LLC, and JJ Hardscape, Inc., of causing damage that resulted in lost rent at the four-story, six-unit building.
(Beacon Hill Cleaners, which had occupied the first-floor retail space at 151 Charles St. since January of 1991, received a letter dated Jan. 3 from the Boston law firm of Ruberto, Israel & Weiner P.C. sent on behalf of the drycleaner’s landlord, Charles and Cambridge Corner LLC, that informed the business they must vacate the premises by the end of business on Friday, Dec. 6; Egeria also claims in its lawsuit that four of the six residential units above the drycleaners ended their leases on Oct. 31 of last year due to the problems next door, while Egeria ordered the two remaining tenants out of the building on Jan. 3 after their engineer concluded the building was structurally unsafe.)
The lawsuit alleges that contractors at 149 Charles St. went beyond permitted work to renovate the basement by instead excavating the space to a depth of 5 feet without the supervision of a structural engineer and without the approval of the city’s Inspectional Services Department.
ISD had issued a stop-work order for 149 Charles St. last August, according to the lawsuit, but that order was later rescinded after the contractor told an investigator the excavation work was undertaken to create “test pits” for engineers, rather than to increase the ceiling height in the basement.
On or about Sept. 19 of last year, tenants at 151 Charles St. reported to the property manager they had experienced sudden and severe warping of floors, as well as cracking in plaster and bathroom tiles, while their doors and windows could no longer open and close properly, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit further alleges “sudden and severe shifting of portions of the building at 151 Charles” happened within a span of just a few hours and at the same time as the excevation work at 149 Charles St. was underway.
ISD immediately issued another stop-work order for 149 Charles St., according to the lawsuit, but that too was removed after an engineer submitted a one-page report dated Oct. 6 deeming the work as “safe.”
ISD issued a third stop-work order for 149 Charles St. on Jan. 13, according to the plaintiff, but their lawsuit asserts that “cracking in walls, displacement of doors and windows, and sinking of floors” has persisted at 151 Charles St.
The plaintiff is seeking a jury trial to demand that the defendant not only pay damages estimated at $1,177,200, but also to ensure that the defendant doesn’t do any addition work at 149 Charles St. until they submit suitable “remediation plans” to the plaintiff’s engineers.
Thomas Curran, the attorney representing 147 Charles Holdings LLC and Brahma Development LLC, said on Friday, Feb. 3, that he and his clients have received a copy of the lawsuit, but they had yet to be served.
“I’m not going to discuss the specifics of the lawsuit, and we’ll allow it to play out in court,” said Curran, “but we will say that we deny all allegations made by the plaintiffs, and we will demonstrate their allegations are based on unsupported speculation and not on any real evidence, and that our experts paint a very different picture of what may or may not be causing the issues that 151 Charles St. are alleged to have been experienced.”
Curran said he and clients would “let the legal proceedings play out in court,” adding that they would file “responsive filings,” likely towards the end of the month.
ISD couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.