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Contractors place liens on Milwaukee Staybridge project

Sean Ryan

Four contractors that worked on the $20 million Staybridge Suites hotel and residential project in Milwaukee filed construction liens against the project developer.
The four companies — Spancrete Industries Inc., Waukesha; Otis Elevator Co., Milwaukee; Black Diamond Group Inc., Oak Creek; and Uihlein Electric Co. Inc., Brookfield — filed liens totaling $1.17 million between Feb. 23 and March 3. Economou Partners, Park Ridge, Ill., is developing the project under the name DOC Corp.
In its lien, Otis said it performed $766,845 worth of work but was paid only $575,840. Spancrete is claiming $426,743 for unpaid work on its almost $8 million contract. Uihlein claimed $533,869 in unpaid work it performed between December 2007 and January 2009. Black Diamond requested $23,712 for paving work it performed for the project.
“(Otis) was hired by Economou Partners, and they didn’t get paid,” said William Rinehart, an attorney representing Otis. “So one of their remedies is to file a lien against the real estate so they’re protected in that regard.”
Economou did not respond to calls for comment.
The project, dubbed The Residences on Water, is to have 31 apartments and 117 hotel rooms. Construction began in January 2007 after the developer bought property, on the corner of Water Street and Juneau Avenue, from the city of Milwaukee.
Lisa Aldrich, general manager of the Staybridge Suites hotels, said Economou told her it plans to open in late June. She said the number of hotel rooms may increase to 132 because of modifications being considered on the 14th floor of the building.
The developer missed its Jan. 31 deadline to pay $159,792 in property taxes to the city.
Although there are still building permits issued for the project, no construction work has been performed there in three or four weeks, said Todd Weiler, spokesman for the Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services. He said city building inspectors were last on site Dec. 30 to inspect erosion control, framing, heating, air conditioning, elevators and gas furnace work.
Hotel room occupancies in the Milwaukee metropolitan area in January 2009 decreased more than 15 percent from January 2008, said Trisha Pugal, president and chief executive of the Wisconsin Innkeepers Association. She said she does not know the circumstances around the Economou project, but said troubles could be tied to either the housing portion or the hotel-room portion of the project.
Pugal said developers’ difficulty in getting banks to finance projects also is affecting hotel construction and putting projects on hold across the state.
“That is a problem if they didn’t already have it locked in,” she said. “Otherwise, if (the loan) is not finalized, then they have to go with the market. And if the market is closing down, that makes it difficult.”

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