Mag Mile condo owners sue owner MetLife over cooling issues

MetLife took over Water Tower from Brookfield in foreclosure

Water Tower Place at 845 North Michigan Avenue (LoopNet, iStock/Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
Water Tower Place at 845 North Michigan Avenue (LoopNet, iStock/Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

MetLife, the New York insurer that took over the Mag Mile’s pricey Water Tower Place last month from Brookfield Property Partners, inherited something else: a lawsuit from condo owners.

The 74-story building’s condo association sued the owners over flaws to the cooling and fire suppression systems at the building at 835 Michigan Avenue about a month before MetLife took control through a foreclosure, Crain’s reported. The building, which has attracted the likes of Oprah Winfrey and David Axelrod, is asking $2.4 million for a three-bedroom unit on the 69th floor.

The lawsuit claims that the sun can be so strong during the winter that it heats the high-rise condos to 80 degrees or higher. Residents say the owner, which is responsible for operating a chilled-water cooling system for the entire property, is to blame, and also says fire dampers — equipment meant to prevent fires from spreading within the complex — aren’t working and the parking garage needs repairs.

MetLife “has taken no action to modify the chilled-water system, repair the smokestack/fire-damper system, repair the garage walls, ceiling, drain system and other elements; and ‘repairs’ performed to date are incomplete and insufficient,” according to the complaint filed by the 180 East Pearson Homeowners Association in Cook County Circuit Court.

A MetLife spokesperson didn’t respond to Crain’s request for a comment.

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Built in the mid 1970s, Water Tower Place includes a vertical shopping mall as well as a high-rise with a Ritz-Carlton hotel and about 260 condos. The operating agreement for the tower, which has changed multiple times over the years, says the owner of the tower’s commercial space is also responsible for operating the shared spaces and managing the building’s infrastructure. The condo owners pay the owner of the commercial space for chilled-water services.

According to the complaint, the chilled-water system can’t operate when the outdoor temperature dips below freezing and residents can’t open windows for relief because they “cannot be opened without adversely impacting air pressure and balance throughout the development.”

The lawsuit is asking a judge to force MetLife to fix the cooling system, restore the fire dampers and repair the garage, which it describes as “deplorable.”

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[CCB] — Victoria Pruitt