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South End condo owners sue over expensive 'puzzle' parking system they say collapsed like a cheap Jenga tower

The owners of 24 condos at 88 and 90 Wareham St. in the South End are suing the developer, its real-estate agent and the manufacturer and installer of their building's car-stacking garage system, which they say has never worked right and which they say folded itself into complete unusability a couple months ago.

In a suit filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court, the condo owners are seeking, at a minimum, the $1 million they say it would take to completely replace the underground car-stacking system, which they say has held cars hostages for weeks on end, but which is no longer in full service due to a May 16 incident, in which the "pallets" used to hold cars began "derailing and piling up like a car crash on the highway in a snowstorm."

Computerized stacking systems, in which pallets on wheels and rails hold cars that are delivered to owners with a fob, sort of like in a magic-square puzzle, have become popular in new condo projects in Boston as a way to fit more cars into relatively small spaces.

Some of the owners paid as much as $100,000 for a deeded space in a system they say has never worked right since it went online in 2020 - and which they charge developer Allied Residences knew wasn't built right:

Instead, Allied sold condominium units to the Phase II unit owners touting the "state of the art" and "revolutionary" parking system and used that "state of the art" representation to garner higher prices from unit owners to purchase parking easements in the automated system to go along with their condominium units.

Phase II, at 88 Wareham St. was built on what was once a boring but functioning traditional surface parking lot for the 1850 Lofts at 90 Wareham St. The new underground system was billed as having space for 44 cars.

In their suit, the condo owners say the system, built by a company called 5by2, never worked correctly, causing problems that included at least two instances where "these failures result in owners being unable to retrieve their vehicles for weeks."

The suit does not include the city of Boston, but the condo owners say the city is partially to blame as well, because of abstruse licensing requirements that benefit nobody but City Hall's pals in the elevator operators' union: The suit alleges that the city classified the system as an "elevator" rather than an "automated parking system," which meant that many of the early problems, which 5by2 could diagnose and fix remotely through software had to have a technician physically come to the scene to "evaluate" the problem, even if 5by2 already knew what the problem was, then manually correct whatever the problem was.

Individual failures and breakdowns often required multiple on-site visits by a licensed elevator technician to troubleshoot, diagnose, and implement a solution where each individual visit was billed a minimum of two hours of labor regardless of the licensed elevator technician's ability to properly troubleshoot, diagnose, and/or implement a said solution.

Because 5by2 did not have its own in-Boston technicians, it charged the condo association for hiring these technicians - at least until it signed a contract with a local elevator-repair company, which still charged the condo association for each visit. And then 5by2 just decided to give up and tell the owners it would no longer abide by the five-year maintenance agreement it had signed, the owners charge.

After the May 16 pallet pileup, the condo association hired an independent contractor to fix the system, but the best it could do was a fix that required simply eliminating some of the pallets, reducing the total number of cars the system can hold at one time.

"The system is in total operational and financial failure, " the suit charges.

PDF icon Complete complaint475.97 KB


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Voting closed 0

It is tough to be a rich city dweller.

Voting closed 37

Regardless of how "easy" or "tough" life is for them, they were sold something that didn't work, and then wasn't supported properly. I hope they prevail.

Voting closed 64

So tough to be a rich city dweller.

Voting closed 20

...which is no longer in full service due to a May 16 incident, in which the "pallets" used to hold cars began "derailing and piling up like a car crash on the highway in a snowstorm.

Video or it didn't happen.

Voting closed 22

Many, many stories.

Almost seems like a conspiracy, no?

Voting closed 20

Per the State Board of Elevator Regulations:

"The Division of Occupational Licensure’s (DOL) Board of Elevator Regulations regulates the construction, installation, alteration, and operation of all elevators in Massachusetts. The term ''elevator'' includes moving stairways, dumbwaiters, moving walks, material lifts, vertical reciprocating conveyors, and dumbwaiters with automatic transfer devices, wheelchair lifts, automatic people movers and other associated devices, that are commonly included within the elevator industry. All elevator constructors and operators must be licensed by the Board."

Seems like the regulate anything that moves heavy stuff around and can randomly crush you.

Voting closed 30

system by the same company currently in use in a Back Bay luxury condo. It sure looks awfully maintenance-intensive, liable to all sorts of routine problems for which you'd want a local, quick-response engineer on call.

Voting closed 34

Who folds down the passenger-side mirror? Or is it just wide enough to fit if you only fold down the driver-side mirror?

Voting closed 3

of why this would be regulated as an elevator -- the driver has to physically be on top of the moving machinery at some points, and would be at risk of death if it malfunctioned. It's not just cars at risk.

Voting closed 16

Have yet another reason to break out their snooty glares on South End residents

Voting closed 0

Bad look for the developer - especially since Boston assessor shows they still own 9 unsold units at 88 Wareham. Good luck moving those.

Voting closed 21

Im not one to side with the ppl who can afford these places (aka the wealthy) but they have a point. They paid for something they aren't getting, and its created problems too.

yeah first world problems, but they paid for something they aren't getting, and considering how much they paid for said thing.. I'd sue too.

Voting closed 34

This is goes beyond subjective ballyhooing about some problem with say, fit and finish, after they the client approved the final plans. Assuming the details above are true and correct, this looks like a pretty clear breach of contract, which is just not cool.

Don't screw your customers over to the point where they have to litigate. That's "How Not to Suck at Business 101."

Voting closed 19

On the comments where these people should get their money's worth...but I'll also ask what the point was of spending all that money to live, well, in the South End.

Luxury also exists in places not down the street from open-air pharmacies. Why not overbid for shelter and parking in those places instead?

Voting closed 12

could spend the money to live in the South End, though I've been here long enough to remember when crime was still enough of an issue to deter some buyers: I had to lobby my wife pretty hard to consider it. (She ended up loving living here.)

I now live with the ancillary fallout of the opioid crisis, have to step over the semi-conscious on my way home pretty regularly, dodge needles in the park. But I don't fret about getting mugged or my car broken into as I once did.

I now just curse the hideous, damnable Sacklers and feel empathy for those poor addicts, though I'm grateful to hear that the courts are holding out the possibility of Long Island coming back online through a reluctant Quincy, maybe getting a few more of those folks the treatment they need and taking them out of the reach of their current predators.

Still grateful to live here, have no plans to move, despite those tiny first-world problems.

Voting closed 38

Does "piling up" mean horizontally or vertically?

While some parking systems move cars vertically, it sounds like this one just shuffled the cars around horizontally, hence the complaint that they shouldn't have needed an elevator technician.

Voting closed 9