Ott's company has its own bone to pick with Nassi. Last year, Swinerton sued the Beauvallon Corporation to recover $1 million the company says it was never paid. An arbitrator awarded Swinerton $1.7 million, but the company has been unable to collect since the Beauvallon Corporation was a limited liability company set up only to build the condos; it no longer has any assets. Swinerton's lawyers are now trying to prove that Nassi is the Beauvallon's "alter ego" and therefore responsible for payment.
"He's very hard to find," Ott says. "We're trying to serve him."
Nassi says he's in settlement negotiations with Swinerton but is waiting to resolve the dispute until the homeowners' association suit is settled.
What's not clear from the homeowners' suit is how the city of Denver allowed the Beauvallon to be built with windows and walls that leak. It's so bad at times that neighbors around Lincoln Street and Ninth and Tenth avenues have gotten accustomed to navigating the waterfalls that pour off the building whenever it rains or when snow melts, not to mention the ice patches that form in the winter.
City building records show that an inspector with the last name of "Ramirez" signed off on the Beauvallon's roofing, gutters and downspouts in April 2004. But there are no gutters to be found on the building. Chief inspector Jim Morgan referred questions about the gutters to planning department spokesman Julius Zsako, who says the Beauvallon has scuppers — small metal boxes that drain water from roofs or walls — instead of gutters.
Yet they don't appear to do anything to stop water from pouring off the ornate upper ledges onto people walking below. As Professional Investigative Engineers noted in its report, this violates the Uniform Building Code, which says that "roof drainage water from a building shall not be permitted to flow over public property."
Zsako insists that the inspector's sign-off at the Beauvallon means that "all work was performed according to code," adding that inspector Ramirez has since retired.
"There's not a code requirement...for gutters or downspouts," Zsako adds, explaining that the Beauvallon was built according to the approved drawings, and that the drawings were approved because they met the city's building codes.
It's an explanation that surprises Matrix owner Levy.
"How can that happen? It's not correct," he says. "Because then why don't all these other buildings downtown have that?"
Nassi dismisses all the construction complaints as a lawyer's ploy to get money from the building's insurance policy, which would have to pay the costs. "If there was no insurance on this, there would be no lawsuit," he says. And he claims that Swinerton tried to fix construction problems early on, but the homeowners' association wouldn't allow it because of the lawsuit. As a result, Nassi says, the leaks and other water issues worsened. As for the gutters, those are up to J&J — or whatever company now owns the commercial portion of the building — to fix. "We sold the building to them as is," he says. "Gutters are a simple thing. They cost a few hundred dollars to put up in each section. If I was the landlord there and enough people requested it, of course I'd put it up." But, he adds, when the building was first constructed, it "wasn't something the architects thought of putting in."
It's an oversight that sounds strange coming from a developer who prides himself on attending to minute details — such as the $150,000 gate from Buenos Aires, Argentina, that Nassi bought to frame the entrance to what is now the Aviano coffee shop. It symbolizes the "elegance of the building," he says. "I worry about the details all the time. I don't think anyone will ever build anything as gracious and elegant as that building."
In the years since the lawsuit was first filed, it has become very difficult to sell a condo in the Beauvallon. Some buyers who research its history consider it a risky investment, while realtors are often hesitant to steer clients there.
"There are known construction defects in the Beauvallon building and it is causing educated buyers to be a bit standoff-ish with the building," Allison Smookler, a real-estate agent for Coldwell Banker, wrote in a May 2008 posting on the real-estate website Trulia.com. Smookler wouldn't comment for this story.
RE/MAX Alliance agent Joe Powers says he recently tried to sell two bank-owned condos in the building but only managed to sell one — for a fraction of its previous value. The three-bedroom home had an original foreclosure value of $925,000, but it ended up selling for $300,000. Several of the building's other three-bedroom units are also listed in this price range. One ad describes a 2,200-square-foot condo with two terraces, views of the pool, and newly upgraded tile and counters selling for $315,000.