Image courtesy of Elkus Manfredi

A financially risky partnership to build an $800 million condo tower above the Massachusetts Turnpike collapsed because of a Boston developer’s “gross mismanagement” and “brinksmanship,” construction giant Suffolk claims in a lawsuit.

Suffolk says its former partner, Weiner Ventures, declared the project dead in the water in August as a tactic to extract last-minute financial concessions.

The lawsuit also attributes delays in the project to Weiner Ventures’ lack of discipline attending to important details of the complex air rights project, spanning four parcels near the entrance to the Prudential Tunnel.

“Stephen Weiner dithered constantly with unnecessary design details, such as the selection of interior cabinetry and exotic finishes, with which he was unusually distracted,” the complaint states.

As a result of Weiner’s “gross mismanagement,” a contract related to a parcel owned by Prudential Insurance expired and had to be renegotiated, Suffolk alleges.

The $100 million lawsuit filed Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court pits the region’s largest construction firm, Suffolk, against Stephen and Adam Weiner, the father-and-son team from Boston-based developer Weiner Ventures. Suffolk is seeking an estimated $43 million it spent on predevelopment costs and other damages, saying that it declined work on other projects because of its commitment to 1000 Boylston.

The project would have spanned four parcels: one owned by Weiner Ventures and three others leased from MassDOT, the city of Boston and Prudential Insurance. In May 2018, the Boston Planning and Development Agency approved revised plans for the 108-unit condo tower.

Suffolk already had begun mobilizing equipment on the parcel 15 site, branded as 1000 Boylston, in August when Weiner Ventures announced that it was terminating the project.

That prompted the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to issue an Oct. 11 deadline for the developers to indicate they were still moving forward.

“We were informed that if we don’t provide that assurance by Friday, the state will withdraw its support,” Suffolk’s attorney, Paul Popeo of Choate, Hall & Stewart, wrote in an email to the Weiners’ attorney that is included as an exhibit in the lawsuit.

The project’s abrupt cancellation, after a decade of planning and permitting, reflected increasingly strained relations between Suffolk and Weiner Ventures. The two sides clashed repeatedly over each side’s responsibilities and delayed schedules for the complex project to be built above active rail lines and the Turnpike, according to Suffolk’s complaint.

The matter came to a head on Aug. 15 as the two sides were preparing to close on a nine-figure credit facility, Suffolk alleges. Weiner said the project was “too risky” and objected to completion guarantees provided to the lender and public agencies, Suffolk claims, and extracted additional concessions.

Nonetheless, Stephen Weiner refused to sign the loan agreement and Adam Weiner instructed Boston-based public relations firm Denterlein to prepare a statement that the project was dead due to a “combination of factors,” the lawsuit says.

By Oct. 1, Fish had found new investors willing to pledge “tens of millions of dollars” to move the project forward. The proposed agreement would have required Weiner to accept a reduced return on its investment while giving Fish control over project decisions, including potential admission of new investors.

The Oct. 11 deadline from MassDOT passed without an agreement, and the state terminated the development agreement on Oct. 18.

The development agreement expired on July 31, 2019, a MassDOT spokesperson told Banker & Tradesman, and after that date the department was in discussions with the development team about extending the agreement.

Weiner Ventures did not respond to requests for comment.

Lawsuit Says ‘Gross Mismanagement’ Derailed 1000 Boylston Air Rights Tower

by Steve Adams time to read: 2 min