Online search results for the Flats at Mixson show the waterlogged apartment complex — briefly one of North Charleston’s trendiest residential addresses — is closed. Shut down. Kaput.
Not so for the litigation that has mushroomed from the moisture.
In the latest turn, the developer of the property and the city are pushing back against a legal challenge that threatens to delay the probable demolition and redevelopment of the abandoned Park Circle site, according to new court filings.
The would-be spoiler is Samet Corp., the big North Carolina contractor that built the apartment complex. It is seeking to postpone enforcement of a city ultimatum that requires the property owner to fix the damage by mid-December or scrape all 10 structures into rubble.
The Greensboro-based builder has said that demolishing the apartments would cause it “irreparable harm” in a lawsuit over the construction defects at Mixson.
The property owner and North Charleston have responded in separate filings this month, with both essentially telling Samet to butt out, that it doesn’t have a dog in this fight.
In legal terms, the builder has “no standing” to contest the repair-or-raze order from the city’s Public Safety and Housing Committee, they said. The reasoning is that the panel’s directive is aimed at the property owner, not Samet.
“Usually the person who is aggrieved by an order files the appeal ... In this instance, there’s no mention of the contractor being ordered to do anything,” North Charleston attorney Derk Van Raalte said Thursday.
On that basis and for other reasons, Van Raalte added in a legal memorandum, the company’s challenge should be denied. Attorneys for the property owner echoed his argument. A court hearing that was to address the issue last week was canceled and has not yet been rescheduled.
The Charleston region is awash in lawsuits over leaky buildings, but the Flats at Mixson is among the splashiest cases to date.
The company and money behind the 268-unit apartment deal is Atlanta-based real estate giant Jamestown Properties. Built off Durant Avenue in 2014, the $21 million project was a residential magnet in the re-energized Park Circle area.
But defects dogged Mixson almost from the get-go. They reached a boiling point in the spring, when Jamestown informed all of the renters that they had to move out by May 31 because of extensive water damage.
A public hearing followed, and the 180-day doomsday clock for Mixson began to tick June 14.
Samet, which has insisted the damage can be fixed below replacement cost, is protesting that its judicial rights were violated during the proceedings that led up to the city’s either-or ruling.
The builder also has alleged that Jamestown is using North Charleston “as a tool” to “gain a competitive advantage” in a lawsuit that the Mixson developer filed against the contractor last year. Samet is countersuing in the 2015 case for breach of contract. Its most pressing concern is that if the buildings are razed before that dispute is resolved, its argument about fixing Mixson turns to dust.
Jamestown, which declined to comment last week because of the litigation, has said in a court filing that “it strains credibility ... that this is some sort of a play” to give it a leg up in the lawsuit against Samet.
It’s clear that the developer is determined to flatten the Flats at Mixson and possibly start over. Jamestown has estimated that the minimum repair bill for the existing buildings would range from $24 million to $30 million and that the fixes could take five years to complete.
It’s also clear that the city is siding with Jamestown in fighting Samet’s appeal. North Charleston’s lawyer said the builder “should consider itself lucky” that the housing committee’s order “even left ‘repairs’ as an option on the table at all.”
The latest development is that all of the legal issues are being assigned to one judge, said Jamestown attorney Jesse Kirchner.
In the meantime, a key date is Dec. 11, when the city’s 180-day grace period runs out for the Flats at Mixson. If a judge doesn’t make a decision before then, North Charleston could take matters into its own hands and bulldoze the vacated property itself.
Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572.