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When construction defects reach the sky

Well-traveled readers will be familiar with one of the most legendary building errors of all time: the picturesque white-marble bell tower in Tuscany, on Italy's west coast. While the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a tourist attraction that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, its fate was never intended for another sky-reaching structure built centuries later: San Francisco's Millennium Tower.

The 58-story skyscraper tilts 14 inches to the northwest; the structure has also sunk 17 inches since its opening nearly a decade ago. Other construction defects are evident, including a giant crack in a 36th-floor window, strange odors, cracked walls, and "bubbling floors," as a recent news report put it.

Experts have yet to determine why the structure is leaning, the report states, but the problem has quite understandably eroded the value of the luxury homes inside.

Designed by Handel Architects - the firm responsible for the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City - the Millennium Tower was an enormous success in its early days. After condos went on sale, more than $100 million worth were sold in less than the first five weeks of sales. Prices ranged from $1.6 million to $10 million.

Everything was rosy from its April 2009 opening until construction began on San Francisco's bus and rail terminal, located next door to the Tower. An analysis of how the transportation terminal might affect the tower found the Millennium had sunk 10 inches. That was a half-foot more than developers had predicted for the tower's entire lifetime.

Developers of the tower - Millennium Partners - claim that construction of the terminal is responsible for the sinking. According to the agency responsible for the transportation terminal, the tower was built on unstable ground and was sinking before their project launched.

It is far too soon for anyone to know today how the ongoing problems there will be resolved.

To protect your interests in a construction defect dispute, contact Tannenbaum Scro. Our lawyers understand this niche area of construction law.

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