New lawsuit provides window into alleged defects at ultraluxury Kakaako tower
A new legal battle has started over the quality of a less than 3-year-old condominium tower that was supposed to be the “pinnacle of luxury living” in a Kakaako community.
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A new legal battle has started over the quality of a less than 3-year-old condominium tower that was supposed to be the “pinnacle of luxury living” in a master-planned Kakaako community.
The association of condo owners at Waiea, a high-rise within Ward Village, filed a lawsuit in state court last week alleging their building is unsafe, uninhabitable and devalued due to more than 100 construction defects.
The lawsuit — filed against Waiea’s general contractor Nordic PCL Construction and potentially subcontractors, designers and suppliers not yet named — rekindles allegations made in a 2017 federal lawsuit filed against Nordic by Waiea’s developer, Howard Hughes Corp.
Hughes Corp.’s lawsuit claimed Nordic owed the developer more than $75 million in damages for alleged defects, cost overruns and late delivery. The suit was dismissed in August when a judge ruled the developer didn’t follow necessary steps that include attempted mediation under a state law governing contractors.
Waiea’s condo association declined to join Hughes Corp. as a plaintiff in the 2017 complaint but reserved the right to bring claims against Nordic in the future.
The association filed its lawsuit through Kasdan LippSmith LLLC, a Honolulu law firm that specializes in construction litigation and is affiliated with California-based Kasdan LippSmith Weber Turner LLP.
Nordic Hawaii District Manager Mike Betz said company policy is to not comment on ongoing litigation.
“We respect and defer to the adjudicative process,” he said.
Nordic has said in previous court filings that it believes the biggest problem cited at Waiea — loud popping noises from the tower’s wavy glass window wall — isn’t due to any failure by Nordic or other contractors to carry out design plans created by Hughes Corp. designers.
Waiea’s board disagrees. Its complaint alleges Nordic failed to construct a building to the level of quality it promised, especially with regard to the window wall the contractor proclaimed was “smooth and seamless … like the ocean on a calm morning.”
The lawsuit also said the building has about 100 defects not related to its glass facade. These items range from rather small things such as missing pool cabana door-latch bumpers and discolored pool grout to more major issues such as faulty air conditioning, inconsistent hot-water temperatures and a defective parking garage door.
“Instead of being one of the most sophisticated, luxurious buildings in Honolulu, Waiea is riddled with dozens of construction defects, several of which have marred its reputation and market value,” the complaint said.
Hughes Corp. spent around $300 million to erect Waiea, and the average price for 171 units in the nearly sold-out tower was $3.6 million.
The developer touted the building, which opened in late 2016, as the “pinnacle of luxury living” and flagship at Ward Village, where Waiea was the first of 16 planned towers in a 60-acre master plan.
Since Waiea, Hughes Corp. has completed three more towers, the most recent of which, Ke Kilohana, opened last week and was built by Nordic.
Waiea’s glass siding has been producing what Hughes Corp. described as sonic booms since residents moved in. Nordic has unsuccessfully tried to eliminate the noises but was barred by Hughes Corp. from further work early last year, according to court filings.
Nordic filed its own legal case over Waiea in 2017, claiming Hughes Corp. didn’t pay for $40 million of work and was responsible for cost and time overruns. That pending case asks a state judge to attach liens to a handful of condo units in the tower the developer has yet to sell.
A couple of subcontractors filed their own legal complaint against Nordic and Hughes Corp. last year. That case also is pending, and Waiea’s owners association filed a motion last week to join the complaint as it pursues its own lawsuit.
Ken Kasdan, an attorney representing Waiea’s board, said more than 65% of condo owners voted to proceed with litigation.
In the past, board conflict-of-interest concerns were raised because Hughes Corp. officials held five of Waiea’s nine board seats. A committee of four board members not affiliated with Hughes Corp. declined to participate in the developer’s earlier lawsuit, and Kasdan said the board moved to proceed with the new litigation after an April election that replaced four of the five directors affiliated with the developer.