The Londonbury, an apartment complex along the river in Conshohocken, opened to much fanfare in 2010. It promised a luxury, city type, lifestyle for commuters who wanted to live in the suburbs close to public transportation. The property is also known for the massive fire that erupted during the construction process in 2008. That fire was touched off by a torch that was left unattended.
I haven’t been down to the property in a year or so, but was down twice recently to take a look at the helipad. I noticed that there was some major construction going on and at one point saw several stacks of windows in the parking lot. I also had just recently begun following a page on Facebook controlled by a resident of the Londonbury that has made several posts that expressed frustration about an ongoing construction process.
What was the construction happening at a three year old building and why was it needed? A resident provided me the original communication to the residents from the management company that stated:
“IMPORTANT NOTICE – PLEASE READ
May 21, 2012
Dear Valued Residents:
After extensive engineering reports, it has been determined that we need to replace all of the façade (siding) at Londonbury as well as the windows. We wanted to provide a brief explanation of the scope of work and provide a timeline for you so you know what is taking place every step of the way.
The work will commence on Monday June 4, 2012 on the 200 building, the East side (facing Riverwalk). What is entailed is the removal of the existing siding, replacement of any damaged boards under the siding, the removal/replacement of all windows, waterproofing/caulking and the installation of new siding. Once a building is complete, we will paint the surface. The contractors will be outside/inside each apartment for approximately 3 to 7 days (weather permitting).
Please note that the interior work will be to install the windows, caulk, reinstall window sills and paint. We will have a bonded security guard inside your home while contractors are working should you not be available to be present.
We will be providing numerous updates each week to keep you apprised of the work schedule. We ask that you provide the office with your email address, if we don’t already have it, so you will have up to the minute updates.
We have had extensive meetings with the contractor to insure they will be as minimally intrusive as possible. All contractors will also be wearing orange vests so you can identify them easily. We have provided a very clear protocol on how they need to conduct themselves so if you have any complaints, please communicate them to the office so that we may address your concerns immediately.
This is going to be quite a large undertaking and your input and communication will be welcome. We want to thank you in advance for your patience and understanding. It is our hope that through good communication with our residents, we will be able to complete this project with the least amount of inconvenience to you.
Please don’t hesitate to call or email us with any questions you may have about how this may impact you specifically. Your comfort is our biggest concern.
The above communication is from Greystar. O’Neill Properties was the builder and original management company of the Londonbury. It was sold and is now managed day to day by Greystar. O’Neill Properties also built the Riverwalk Apartments, which it no longer owns, and two neighboring office buildings, which it still owns. O’Neill Properties is in the process of obtaining approval to build over 600 additional apartments in the same area along Washington street.
I emailed the Borough to get additional information and received the below response back from David Naples, the Borough’s Building Code Inspector:
A permit was issued for the repairs to the exterior façade of the buildings. The repairs were being made by the current owner due to “the understanding that the current exterior wall cladding system of the existing buildings, including flashing and weather barriers were not installed correctly and that the incorrect installation of those materials has allowed moisture to get behind the exterior cladding and, in some instances, reach the OSB sheathing.”
The construction of the buildings predates my time with the Borough so I have no firsthand knowledge as to the reasons for the cladding failure or its initial inspection.
I spoke with Stephen Forster of O’Neill Properties last week and he said that when the building was sold, the issues were known by all parties and that O’Neill provided funding for the repairs. O’Neill has also hired a waterproofing expert to consult on all of its new development projects.
The current construction project is not going well according to a few Londonbury residents that have emailed me. Reports include that there have been three project managers, the work areas are not properly policed, a dog swallowed a construction staple from an unpoliced area and required surgery, loss of parking spaces, etc. Residents aren’t just emailing MoreThanTheCurve.com. I got a report that CBS3 was down at the site last week as well.
I asked the residents that emailed me if Greystar had shared the upcoming construction project with them when they were considering signing a lease. A few of the residents said there was no mention of it, and others say they were told, but that they were undersold on the scope of the work. One resident told me he received a discount on his rent.
The majority of the complaints stem from the length of the project. As we noted above, the projected started in June and still hasn’t touched the interior courtyard/parking section of the complex. Every resident I spoke or emailed with had been provided assurances it wouldn’t take this long and construction is now on a winter break.
Hopefully the construction will pick-up steam when it resumes or there are going to be a lot of very unhappy people along the riverfront.