Mpls. Gets Green Light To Sue Uptown Building Owner

The city accuses a property owner of illegally discharging water into Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes; the building’s property manager, however, remains hopeful that the parties can come to a “mutually acceptable solution.”

The Minneapolis City Council recently gave the city the green light to sue the owner of a luxury apartment building in Uptown.

The council said it “authorized a lawsuit” against Lake and Knox, LLC, the owner of an apartment and retail building called 1800 Lake on Calhoun. The city accuses the building owner of illegally discharging water from an underground garage into Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes, arguing that the practice is “having an impact on the environment and public safety.”

The building owner is allegedly pumping 170 gallons of water per minute into a storm sewer, which empties the groundwater into a lagoon between Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun. The discharge caused ice on the lagoon to become thin last winter, creating unsafe conditions for cross-country skiers on the lakes, according to the city. The flow of groundwater has also “prevented routine maintenance on the storm sewer, causing other adverse environmental impacts,” the city added.

“Our understanding is there is a distinction between authorizing a lawsuit and commencing a lawsuit,” Lynne Wyffels, vice president of The Shelard Group, Inc., which manages the 1800 Lake on Calhoun building, told Twin Cities Business on Tuesday. “Our intention, as it has been in the past, is to continue to work with the city towards a resolution.”

Wyffels said that her Eden Prairie-based firm has hired consultants and is in ongoing discussions with the city “to find a mutually acceptable solution.”

City spokesman Casper Hill confirmed Tuesday that the city has not yet filed a lawsuit, but said that it now has the authority to do so.

The apartment building is located at 1800 Knox Avenue South, and it appears the dispute has been ongoing for at least several months. Barr Engineering in April issued a report outlining a number of possible solutions to the issue, along with preliminary cost estimates.

An attorney representing Lake and Knox, LLC, wrote in a September letter to the city that the building owner planned to use a two-pronged approach to mitigate the problem—the proposal involved injecting a “grout curtain” around the building to slow the rate at which groundwater seeps into the foundation drains; the remaining seepage would then be returned to the groundwater via “injection wells.”

In a letter dated October 15, however, the city responded that the plan was insufficient. The city said that the Minnesota Department of Health would deny the application to construct injection wells, and the plan didn’t fully address the thin-ice problem.