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Condo association suing builder who renovated Lehigh Riverport

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Apr 10 2013 12:07:16 PM CDT
EASTON, Pa. -

A condominium association is suing the builder who renovated one of Bethlehem's most highly touted new living spaces of the last decade.

The Lehigh Riverport Condominium Association, 11 West Second St., Bethlehem, filed a civil suit Friday in Northampton County Court against Bucks Development & Contracting Corp., 559 Main St., Bethlehem, over defects which the association says include a crumbling exterior wall, "bulging" bricks, and a roof that is caving in.

The association says in its suit that Bucks Development, which renovated the old Bethlehem Steel Johnson Machine Shop building along the Lehigh River next to the Fahy Bridge, should pay to fix the brick and roof.

Repairs to the building will cost more than $300,000 and will take four to six months to complete, the suit says.

The president of Bucks Development, Leo DeLong, told WFMZ.com on Wednesday morning that he had just sent the court papers to his insurance company.

DeLong said the association's legal action is "a false suit," and that he intends to fight it. The area of the building mentioned in the suit "didn't even have a contractor work on it," DeLong claimed. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission "deemed no work was necessary, and we''ll be bringing witnesses into court saying so."

DeLong said the company that did the engineering work on the building, Jena Engineering Corp., of Allentown, sought an opinion from the Historical and Museum Commission before work on the building was begun.

Construction began in 2004 on Lehigh Riverport, a $30-million loft-style condominium project put together by Ashley Development Corp.

In mid-2006, people began moving into the renovated building's 172 condo units, which sold for $150,000 to $600,000 and featured hardwood floors, exposed brick and heating ducts and stainless steel kitchen appliances.

The Riverport complex, arguably Bethlehem's highest-profile example of "adaptive reuse," also included a restaurant/pub (which closed in February), a fitness club and a 500-space parking deck. The building had been used by Bethlehem Steel during World War II to produce ship armaments.

The condominium association suit says that over the last two years, bricks on the building's west wall have begun cracking, and that cracks have appeared inside two units.

Also, the parapet wall at the top of the building is leaning toward the building's center, the suit says, because the EPDM rubber roofing material was not installed with enough slack. Brick under the parapet cap was exposed, allowing water to enter the building, according to the suit.

Also, the building's brick is subject to "bulging" because the building was renovated without anchors to hold the brick to the frame of the building, the suit says.

The condominium association says in its suit that the building is "deteriorating rapidly," and may soon be a hazard to pedestrian traffic.

The suit says the deficiencies are due to Bucks Development's "defective design, defective and incomplete construction and defective review of its own design."

The suit charges breach of contract; breach of implied warranty of workmanship/fitness; unfair trade practices (because of condo owners' loss of value and marketability) and negligence, and asks more than $50,000 in damages.