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Unpaid Architect for the Hilton Pittsburgh Renovation Wants the City
 to Return Design Plans, a Move That Could Revoke Building Permit

By Rick Stouffer, The Pittsburgh Tribune-ReviewMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 22, 2009--The architect who designed the Hilton Pittsburgh hotel's renovation project wants city building inspectors to return his design plans and specifications -- a move that could revoke the hotel's building permit.

"The approved plans are needed for the building permit at the Hilton," said Stephen Berry, owner of Youngstown Design Co. P.C., of Youngstown, Ohio. "If the plans are pulled, the building permit should be revoked."

Berry's letter Tuesday to the Building Inspection Department comes after he filed mechanics' liens totaling $308,575 against the Hilton owners for work performed between May 2006 and Jan. 26. Berry wants the plans because he hasn't been paid.

Berry's allegations are the latest Hilton miscues. Owner Shubh Hotels LLC, of Boca Raton, Fla., has been inundated in the last 18 months with mechanics' liens filed for nonpayment of bills totaling nearly $2 million. Shubh executives did not return phone calls.

Prime contractor P.J. Dick Co. pulled its workers off the job site in mid-May. Work has yet to resume even though the contractor's $317,273 lien was satisfied earlier this month.

"At this point, we're vetting through the law to see what our next course will be," said Sergei Matveiev, Building Inspection Bureau chief, when asked about the architect's demand. "That decision is being examined in the law department."

Berry also alleged that hotel owners never tested or inspected welds and bolted connections for the addition's steel shell, which he characterized as "a formality."

In addition, Berry said a system to bring fresh air into the 700-plus hotel rooms never has been installed.

"Part of the renovation was replacing all the windows in all the rooms with fixed windows that don't open," Berry said. "Fixed windows mean you have in place a fresh air system to meet basic building code requirements. And the hotel doesn't have that system."

Berry said the Hilton ballroom needs a fourth exit.

"The building code states that above 1,000 people in the room, you need a fourth exit, and that each exit lead to the outside," Berry said. "They are operating the ballroom with three good exits."

Berry alleges that a water and sewer permit should have been secured by Shubh in connection with the 18,000-square-foot addition. He believes no permit was secured.

"The owners did not file anything with us," said Melissa Rubin, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

One positive Hilton development occurred Monday, as Shubh satisfied the debt owed Gokul Inc., owner of the Days Inn motel in Banksville.

"I received a cashier's check on Monday for the full amount owed my client, $11,982.58, and I intend to satisfy the judgment which will cancel the sheriff's sale," Gokul attorney Noah Fardo said.

Shubh paid a $13,000 debt to Salego Plumbing Co. earlier this month to head off a sheriff's sale of Hilton furnishings. Shubh owned the Days Inn money for rooms used by Hilton workers last year.

Another disgruntled Hilton creditor could schedule a sheriff's sale of hotel items as early as July 30. Fire Fighter Sales and Service Co. of Sharpsburg installed a sprinkler system last year and billed Shubh for $69,363. One payment of $10,347 was made in April.

About $62,350 still is owed. Shubh Chief Executive Atul Bisaria acknowledged in a notarized document that he owes Fire Fighter the full amount.


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