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Millennium Tower Neighbor Facing Structural Integrity Concerns

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco residents who are paying attention to the ongoing saga of the sinking and leaning Millennium Tower may have noticed the new, even taller residential tower going up right next door.

"Well, we're in the center of San Francisco, the Transbay District. We're also 702 feet off the ground with 360 degree views of the Bay," said Matthew J. Lituchy, chief investment officer at Jay Paul Company, the developer behind the building, 181 Fremont.

When it opens next year, it will be the tallest residential tower in San Francisco. The 55 condo units might well be among the most expensive in the city, but French door handles and Italian marble may not be the premier selling point.

These days, people want to know about foundation designs and structural engineering.

"I think it just reinforces the decisions we made early on," said Lituchy.

The 181 Fremont sales office is now getting hit with questions that might be better suited for architects and geo-technical experts, and that conversation is driven entirely by the next door neighbors, The Millennium Tower. The famously sinking building is a reinforced concrete structure on a so-called "floating box" foundation, and architects and engineers agree that Millennium is simply heavier than most buildings using that design.

As for 181 Fremont, Lituchy pointed out that his tower is "down 260 feet with 42 different elements into bedrock."  The design team even tossed out the first design and aimed for something more lightweight.

"We actually pivoted and went with this more resilient design, it actually weighs a little less," explained Lituchy, describing the final design for the tower. Lighter and more resilient means shock absorbers every ten floors. It's also the first tower in the country to use elevators as the primary evacuation route.

Given the attention being paid to how these buildings are designed and built, over-engineering may the best foundation for such a towering investment.  For Lituchy and the team behind 181 Fremont, it was an investment that's now paying off in the sales office;

"It was an expensive design, but it was a safe design," said Lituchy. "And I think that's being borne out by the recent news about other buildings in the market."

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