Craig Nassi changed Denver's Golden Triangle, but not everything is sparkling

Page 4 of 6

Nassi sold the commercial portion of the Beauvallon to J&J Property Investments in 2005, but no one from that company could be reached for comment. The phone number listed for owners Maria and Johnson Lin, in the town of Superior, has been disconnected. Realtor David Fried says he is trying to lease the properties on behalf of a court receiver; he wouldn't comment further.

In the past four years, a number of other businesses have also opened and quickly closed in the Beauvallon, including Deli Zone and Moda Ristorante and Lounge. Today, three of the nine storefronts are empty.

While they acknowledge that his methods may have rubbed some people the wrong way, two other former Nassi business partners also give him credit.

Joe Simmons, the architect who designed the Prado and the Belvedere, calls Nassi a "hard-ball businessman, and I think some people in this town aren't used to that... But he paid me every penny he owed me. I admire the man. He's very ambitious.

"He always operated under the premise that a dollar he didn't have to spend was a dollar he could put in his pocket," adds Simmons, who lived in the Belvedere for five years after designing it. "I don't think that he was unethical in the way he did business, but he was a pretty willful man."

Spa owner Griffin explains it simply: "Craig's always going to get the one-up on a deal. But that's what keeps Craig successful."

It's just really an incredible place. We love it there...we've had no negative experiences," gushes Barbie Gummin, owner of one of the Beauvallon's penthouses, which she recently put up for sale for $2.3 million.

With two master suites, heated floors, soundproof walls and four private parking spaces, there's little to complain about. Gummin has rented her condo out to former Nugget Marcus Camby and is now selling because she and her husband have moved to Florida to care for her mother. She doesn't understand what all the fuss is about, why her neighbors in the homeowners' association have decided to sue. "We feel bad he's gotten such a bad rap," she says of Nassi.

But such rosy views are rare.

In 2006, condo owners in the Beauvallon began reporting leaks in their homes after snowstorms, so attorneys for the homeowners' association hired an outside expert, Professional Investigative Engineers, to check it out. The company noted that there was indeed water seeping in through windows. They also discovered a more sinister problem: mold in the walls of 44 condos, according to the lab results included in the firm's public report. The engineers concluded that the synthetic stucco-like material covering the outside of the building wasn't waterproof and allowed water to creep in, causing mold to grow in the walls and rust to corrode the building's steel frame. Pictures included in the report showed cracks big enough to fit a credit card at the point where balcony-side walls connect to the outside of the building. The edges of windows and sliding glass doors on the fourteenth and fifteenth floors had gaps that allowed water to enter. One photo, from a condo on the seventh floor, shows black mold growing beneath a window.

Environmental consultants hired by the Beauvallon's property management company took a closer look at some units. Although Gandalf Associates couldn't say for sure where the mold was coming from, they said it appeared to be "the result of affected building materials being repeatedly wet or kept moist for extended periods of time, likely from water infiltration from the outside," according to a May 2007 report.

In April 2007, the Beauvallon Condominium Association sent a letter to every owner in the building informing them that the association had filed suit against Nassi, his company, BCN Development, Swinerton Builders, Big Horn Plastering and other firms involved with the construction. The complaint alleged a slew of construction defects, from flaws in the material covering the outside of the building to bad roofing and leaks in the penthouses. Repair estimates reached $21.7 million and included the cost of removing and replacing the entire exterior of the building.

Association attorney Scott Sullan declined to comment on the problems or on Nassi, saying only, "I believe that my job is to help these folks get their homes repaired. We're trying to get the building fixed." Peter Mannetti, president of the Beauvallon homeowners' association, also declined to comment. Several residents contacted for this story didn't return calls seeking comment. Many who moved out of the most damaged condos couldn't be located.

Kevin Ott, Colorado division manager for Swinerton, says his company attempted to address a list of problems that the homeowners' association came up with. "We tried to take care of everything that we knew about and were allowed to take care of."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab