EpiCentre, with its 15-story hotel, movie theaters, bowling alley, bars, stores and offices, covers a block of downtown Charlotte. Developer Afshin Ghazi estimates it has cost about $180 million. Some subcontractors who have worked on it and didn’t get paid fear it might cost them their businesses.
“It’s been devastating,” says Mike Treadaway, owner of Treadaway & Sons Painting & Wallcovering Inc. in Charlotte. “I have exercised every option that I have as far as borrowing money. I borrowed $50,000 from my line of credit from the bank. I’ve used $5,000 of my overdraft protection on my checking account. Now, to make my payroll this week, I’m going to have to go into my personal savings.”
Treadaway has filed liens against Ghazi’s company, Pacific Avenue LLC, and the general contractor, Lancaster, S.C.-based Advanced Construction & Consulting LLC, hoping to get nearly $60,000 he says he’s owed for work done last winter. “There are so many people that are involved in this. I’ve got a list right in front of me of at least 15 subcontractors that have done work and not gotten paid. And there’s probably another 10 or 15 I don’t even know about.”
Treadaway says he had to cut staff from 25 to six earlier this year, partly because of the sluggish economy, partly because he hasn’t been paid for the work at EpiCentre. This summer, he got some new projects and added a dozen employees but struggled to find money to pay them. Karen Codespoti says her $500,000-a-year business, Concord-based Luna Stone Inc., is out about $50,000 for an installation of quartz in the bowling alley last winter and has laid off four workers. In early August, it was just her and her husband, trying to keep money coming in to pay off creditors. “We’re on the verge of being out.”
Advanced Construction referred questions about EpiCentre to its attorney, Bill Navarro of Charlotte, but he didn’t return phone calls. Ghazi says Advanced Construction was hired by EpiCentre tenants, not by his company, to upfit their space. He says he talked about the problems with Rob Lenderman, Advanced Construction’s vice president of business development. “He told me he had been commingling his funds, and it had gotten him in trouble because he was using money from first jobs to pay for second jobs and so on,” Ghazi says.
Tenants told Ghazi they had paid Lenderman in full. “He failed to pay his subcontractors. So this is an Advanced Construction issue as far as I’m concerned.”