The general contractor in the renovation of Wall Street Theater in Norwalk, Conn., has filed a motion in court seeking to collect on a mechanic's lien.
The Morganti Group Inc. of Danbury, which began work in May 2016, filed a mechanic's lien in the amount of $1.5 million in April 2017 and increased it to nearly $2.4 million the next month over alleged unpaid work on the historic theater at 71 Wall St.
The newest action, filed by the Southport law firm McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter LLP, on behalf of Morganti, seeks foreclosure of the mechanic's lien.
"Pursuant to terms of the contract, Wall Street is obligated to pay any and all additional damages as provided in the contract," the claim reads. "By virtue of the foregoing, Morganti has been damaged and seeks foreclosure of its Mechanics' Lien."
Mechanic's liens represent an initial step to force customers to honor their bills by giving contractors second priority, after tax agencies, on payments for the value of work they have put into a project. Under Connecticut law, a mechanic's lien remains in force for one year, or longer if a claimant files notice of a lawsuit or foreclosure action to collect the loan.
Wall Street Theater President Suzanne Cahill said the matter is in arbitration and stressed that the theater has not been foreclosed upon.
"Morganti has filed a lawsuit seeking to foreclose on the mechanics lien that it recorded on the property," Cahill said. "The theater is not in foreclosure. There is no impending foreclosure sale. To the contrary, the lawsuit is in its infancy and there has been no legal adjudication of the lien."
Cahill said Wall Street Theater "vehemently" denies the allegation made by Morganti.
"Wall Street Theater believes that Morganti will not be successful on its claims and that the theater will recover against Morganti for defective work, incomplete work, and improper overbillings," Cahill said.
The motion claim names Wall Street Theater Co. and numerous subcontractors — some of which have filed their own mechanic's liens over alleged unpaid work — as defendants.
The motion states that the MacKenzie Co., a painting company engaged in the theater renovation, is owed $129,627.
"We're hopeful that this bill will get paid and the dispute will be resolved expeditiously," said attorney Anthony LaBella of the Fairfield law firm Ury & Moskow, which represents the painting subcontractor.
Frank Farricker, developer of the theater, said in late October that liens remained and that Wall Street Theater Co. was working to resolve them.
"We have a couple (liens) left and we have an arbitration process and we'll be going through that," said Farricker, who wouldn't quantify the amounts. "It's hard to say really because we think that they owe us money and they think that we owe them money."
Awaiting marquee sign
The theater, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, emerged from a $12 million restoration early this year. Work continued on the building during a soft opening of the theater in April. More than 400 people attended the grand opening May 15. The event featured local talent and eight Broadway stars, many of whom returned this fall.
Two Norwalk Fire Department officials were present at the grand opening as part of an agreement between the city and Wall Street Theater, pending final inspections and issuance of a permanent Certificate of Occupancy.
The Norwalk Building Department issued Wall Street Theater Co. a Conditional Certificate of Occupancy Dec. 30. That permit expired June 30, according to the department.
William Ireland, Norwalk's chief building official, said in late October that Wall Street Theater Co. obtained another conditional certificate of occupancy and would be issued a permanent certificate once the exterior marquee sign is installed. All interior work has been completed, according to Ireland.
"There's nothing more they have to do," Ireland said. "They finished the sprinkler and alarm system, electric, the elevator and the HVAC."
Farricker said he expects the marquee sign will go up within the next couple of weeks. The sign will be a modern replication of the historic sign that was above the theater entrance for decades. The theater opened in 1915 as a vaudeville house, transitioned into a movie theater in the 1930s, and much later became a rock venue and a dance club.
Wall Street Theater Co., the nonprofit organization formed to operate the renovated theater, has promised to make the space available for live shows, interactive entertainment, digital production, art space and state-of-the-art digital streaming technology. It also will make it available to the public as a community arena.
"We've got a lot of really significant Norwalk companies who've rented the theater for Christmas parties," Farricker said.
Between now and early February, Wall Street Theater Co. has seven shows scheduled, including an already sold-out performance of "The Nutcracker" by Metropolitan Youth Ballet on Dec. 2, according to the theater's website.
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