Digital mockup of the Freeport project

The Freeport South Boston project is facing over $6 million in liens, the latest chapter in a saga of payment disputes involving upscale Boston developer Navem Partners

General contractor Rise Construction Management and subcontractors Keller North America and J. Derenzo Co., Inc filed liens totaling $6,038,896 after Navem Partners allegedly failed to pay for work on The Freeport South Boston LLC project, located on Boston’s Dorchester Avenue.

A construction lien is a claim filed by unpaid contractors that puts financial pressure on the property owner to pay, as the lien attaches to a property and can hinder its sale or refinancing until the debt is settled.

According to documents filed with the Suffolk County Register of Deeds, Rise Construction placed their lien of $5,342,546 on December 1, 2020, a day after subcontractors Keller North America and J. Derenzo Co., Inc filed a $696,350 claim.

Boston Planning and Development Agency describes the plan for the upcoming six-story structure to include 114 residential condo units, 6,520 square feet of commercial space, two levels of underground parking for upwards of 120 vehicles — this in a city where parking is at a premium.

The developer also originally stated it would include 20 affordable housing units, but the number was reduced to 12. A June 2015 Letter of Intent from the developer’s attorney states two parcels of land were being combined to building 270 Dorchester Ave., with the razing of two existing structures.

Navem Partners did not respond to contact regarding the liens. The Massachusetts-based company currently holds a payment score of “F” on its Levelset contractor profile. Payment score is calculated from payment performance feedback and compared to tens of thousands of other contractors nationally.

Navem Partners property partially destroyed in collapse

The recent liens at Dorchester Avenue are not the first controversy faced by a Navem Partners property. In January 2020, a building it had purchased in Boston’s South End neighborhood partially collapsed. 

According to a report by the Boston Herald, the brownstone building on Upton Street was deemed unsafe by fire officials. The city’s fire chief said there was a “significant collapse” to the structure’s rear porches, exterior rear walls, and back fire escape.

James Heffernan — a Navem partner and the company’s chief legal officer — said construction to renovate the building into luxury condos was supposed to begin the week after the 2020 collapse occurred. Heffernan claimed the company was “unaware” of the building’s structural issues. 

“We’re not in the business of acquiring properties to sit on them or to be absentee landlords,” Heffernan told the Herald

Despite Navem Partner’s claim that they were unaware that the building faced multiple structural issues, the building had already been condemned for a non-specified period.

“Neighbors said it has sat empty for ‘decades’,” the report stated. “The previous property owner was issued an emergency building permit in 2015 to repair loose bricks on the facade, city records show. It’s unclear if the repairs were ever made.”