Makers Line shuts down after issues with late pay and questions about its work

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A Salt Lake City developer that made a splash with a catalytic project in the Granary District is apparently facing significant issues, and its marquee general contracting firm is laying off staff and closing its doors, Building Salt Lake has learned.

Staff at subsidiaries of Q Factor have reported being furloughed or laid off as recently as Thursday. Others have quit, and more have reported late pay and messages from company leaders that companies under the Q Factor umbrella would soon wind down or close, leaving questions about the state and future of Q Factor itself.

That leaves in question the status of numerous high-profile projects throughout the capital city and along the Wasatch Front, marking a stunning downfall for what had been one of the region’s up-and-coming developers and raising questions for thousands of subcontractors working on projects run by Makers Line.

“Summa Terra Ventures is saddened by Makers Line’s closure today,” said Mike Watson CEO of Summa Terra Ventures, which was using Makers Line for two projects in Ogden that faced significant construction defects.

“We’ve been preparing for this possibility for some time and are now working with Rich Development to complete our Ogden projects, Hunter’s Landing and Union Walk,” Watson added in his statement. 

A job posting at Q Factor highlights the vertically integrated nature of the company, which owned a general contracting firm, architecture firm, metal fabricator, and other subcontracting companies.

Leaders for Makers Line and Q Factor didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on the record. 

A former Makers Line employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Building Salt Lake that all Makers Line employees were told they were laid off on Thursday, and that sister companies Forge, a metal manufacturer, and Titus, a concrete company, were also “gone.”

Interviews with multiple people with knowledge of recent events paint a dramatic setback for what was until recently a fast-growing development company, along with its subsidiaries that grew with Utah’s commercial construction boom, which also came to a screeching halt under the weight of high interest rates.

Q Factor, whose owners relocated from Denver to Salt Lake City before embarking on Industry SLC, established itself as a vertically integrated developer, a specialty that helped its companies grow quickly.

Makers Line is its general contractor. Drumbeat handles architecture, placemaking and interior design. Forge is a metal fabricator. Recently, Q Factor picked up a concrete company called Titus.

But among them, Makers Line in many ways was the core of the operation, responsible for overseeing construction, hiring and paying subcontractors, and making sure work was completed on time and according to contract.

As such, the company quickly grew, winning dozens of construction contracts across the Wasatch Front and hiring hundreds of employees.

Along the way, the company tripped on several projects and began to build a bad reputation, according to interviews with nearly a dozen people within Utah’s development scene.

Multiple people said Makers Line has become notable for missed payments to contractors. At least two subcontractors made claims in court for missed payment, and another filed a claim around disputes of unfinished work and pay discrepancies.

Several employees told Building Salt Lake they were furloughed this month. One said that Makers Line employees were told yesterday they were being laid off.

Tim Foster, Makers Line

Tim Foster, the company’s president, has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Q Factor’s previous CEO Tami Door is no longer with the firm. Jason Winkler, its co-founder, didn’t respond to requests for comment, except to say in a text that Makers did “not quite” close down entirely.

Makers Line’s website was taken offline on Thursday but appears to have been restored, same with Drumbeat. The websites for Titus and Forge are still down.

Shuttering such a big general contracting company would have ripple effects throughout the industry, putting in question the status and timeline of projects in the works, as well as the dozens or hundreds of people that are hired to complete those projects.

Whether the companies are entirely shuttered, as sources said, or vastly shrunken will still make waves along the Wasatch Front either way. 

Active projects

There have been signs of trouble at the firm throughout its period of rapid growth, perhaps none bigger than two buildings Makers Line was overseeing in Ogden.

The firm was working for Summa Terra Ventures on a 55-unit multifamily project called Union Walk. 

Framing on the building was nearing completion when city inspectors discovered it was made out of wood that wasn’t properly fire-rated and stopped work in March, the Ogden Standard-Examiner first reported.

In statements at the time, Summa Terra Ventures placed blame squarely on Makers Line.

“Without the knowledge or consent of Summa Terra Ventures, the property’s ownership, and Ogden City, Makers Line unilaterally made the decision to substitute fire-treated lumber, as originally prescribed in the contract, the approved building plans, and the prevailing national building code, with untreated lumber,” according to a statement shared with KSL. “This deviation from established protocols constituted a breach of Makers Line’s contractual obligations to the owner and a violation of the approved building plans and pertinent building regulations.”

Summa Terra said Makers Line breached its contract by using a wood that wasn’t fire treated. The city of Ogden stopped all work on the building in March. It was the second building to be stalled for the same reason.

KSL reported that a second project, also in Ogden, was halted for the same reason before Makers Line remedied the problem with the city and construction continued.

Sources said Makers Line officials were searching for a solution that might be applied to the non-treated wood to salvage it. Ogden officials approved a solution on one project, Hunter’s Landing, but not on Union Walk, so construction of the unfinished building remains stalled.

That’s not the only project that’s apparently stalled.

The firm was also working on the Chicago Street Townhomes along the North Temple corridor, though that project appears to have been stalled for sometime.

It is working on the Bueno Apartments, the first shared housing project under the city’s recently updated ordinance around what had been known as single-room occupancy. That project is led by Alta Terra Real Estate.

Alta Terra is also working with Makers Line on two significant projects in Sugar House, and another project near Trolley Square. Multiple messages to employees at Alta Terra weren’t immediately returned.

Jordan Atkin, a developer and investor with TAG SLC, which is a Building Salt Lake advertiser, called Makers Line’s apparent demise “devastating” for the owner of projects that were under construction.

“Just the way the costs work out, if you have a half built building by Makers Line you’re not in the best position to negotiate a great contract with the GC that comes in,” said Atkin, who doesn’t have projects underway with Makers Line. “The amount of time it takes to get up to speed on what’s going on halfway through is way harder than if you were involved in the beginning.”

It’s possible that the Ogden mistake compounded issues already underway at Makers Line, according to court filings and interviews with previous subcontractors.

Late payments

Numerous sources and lawsuits filed by subcontractors and a client indicate Makers Line became known for making late payments for their work.

A landscaping company called Boulder Landscaping filed suit last month against Makers Line, alleging nonpayment for an unspecified project. Makers Line has owed Boulder Landscaping over $65,000 for more than a year, the company alleged. 

Another company, Bingham Plumbing & Mechanical, also filed suit in July, saying Makers Line owes it over $106,000 for plumbing and mechanical work on the Union Walk Apartments.

A restaurant called Vietopia filed suit in state court alleging that repeated construction delays on a new restaurant in Farmington caused by Makers Line put it into financial hardship in 2021. According to the complaint, the two couldn’t agree on work completed and money owed. 

Vietopia later asked the court to dismiss the suit, indicating the two parties had settled outside court.

A principal from an architecture firm in Salt Lake City said his firm had worked in some capacity on four projects with Makers Line, one that’s nearly under construction.

“Have you seen their reviews on Google? We had the same experience as people on Google.” the architect said. 

Multiple subcontractors took to Google to air their complaints about lack of pay, with several saying they struggled for months to reach Makers Line to obtain past due bills.

“We’ve been sending them an invoice for materials they ordered for 7 months and haven’t been able to get a response in that entire time,” wrote Weston Hathaway, whose firm Brailsford Cast Stone worked for Makers Line on a project in Ogden. Hathaway confirmed to Building Salt Lake that he wrote the review and that pay was delayed before the company eventually settled up. “It took ages to come through.” 

A representative from a mechanical engineering firm said they filed suit in small claims court this week. They said Makers Line hired the firm for a project, the firm paid to pull all relevant permits and when the project was set to start, Makers Line told them they were working with someone else.

“They owe us about $8,000,” the representative said.

A KUTV story this week detailed missed paychecks at Forge. The employees said Q Factor representatives told them Forge was shutting down.

At least one employee said they didn’t receive pay.

“No checks, no Paid PTO, no bonuses paid that were earned,” the employee said.

Another said he hadn’t had any issues with late pay.

What’s next for Q Factor?

It’s without question that Q Factor was at the heart of the web of companies that are now in question.

Each company under Q Factor’s previously growing umbrella is registered either to the Industry SLC address, or to Matthew Muir, an attorney who worked for Q Factor until this month, according to his LinkedIn bio. That includes Makers Line.

Q Factor has been credited with sparking growth in the Granary District with its massive redevelopment known as Industry SLC, which is the company’s Salt Lake City headquarters.

An example of office space that employees actually want to go to, Industry quickly leased up shortly after its completion despite the uncertainty of the pandemic.

The company isn’t part of the ownership structure of the development, sources said.

The company had previously been working on a massive parking garage in the Granary District. It also had plans for a street project on 500 West, an “attainable housing” project near the parking garage and other projects nearby.

It’s not clear what’s next for the developer.

Email Taylor Anderson

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.