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 results 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 then5by2 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.